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Frogs Have Evolved with Changing Environments to Resist Common Pesticides

Aug 20, 2015 11:47 AM EDT
Frog species' adaptation provides hope for amphibian survival.
Frog species have learned to adapt to their changing environment, by developing a pesticide resistance through a process called phenotypic plasticity.
(Photo : Wikipedia Commons )

There may be hope for amphibian survival! Recent studies show that several frog species have the ability to induce a genetic resistance to a group of commonly used pesticides.

Researchers studied wood frogs, which, in one generation, were able to pass on such defenses after exposure to contaminated environments.

According to their study published in Nature, this is the first-known example of a vertebrate species developing pesticide resistance through a process called phenotypic plasticity, in which the expression of some genes change in response to environmental pressure. However, this does not involve changes to the genes themselves, which generally takes many generations to evolve.

"Frogs can evolve much faster than we thought," Andrew Blaustein, an amphibian ecologist at Oregon State University in Corvallis, said in an article in Nature. "It is possible these stunning findings could have some practical value for conservation but the situation is complex. There is a cocktail of problems."

Nonetheless, the frogs' speedy response observed raises hope for amphibian species -- of which one-third are threatened or extinct -- explained Rick Relyea, team leader and ecologist at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, in the article.

"If inducible tolerance occurs more widely in nature, it would alter our perspective on how pesticides affect organisms," said Relyea in the article, noting that he believes agricultural pests such as mites and beetles -- the intended targets of pesticides -- could similarly develop a resistance.

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).

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