High rate of frog hermaphroditism linked to pesticides

An examination of the sex organs of cricket frogs collected in Illinois between 1852 and 2001 is presumably its own reward. However, in this case it’s also led researchers to a notable conclusion: Heavy use of chemicals such as DDT and PCBs may cause higher rates of hermaphroditism in frogs. In a study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, scientists noted that the number of cricket frogs born with both male and female sex organs was highest during the 1950s when the chemicals were used most heavily, before being outlawed in the U.S. In the 1960s, the once-abundant cricket frogs quickly dropped in number, presumably because the chemicals affected female hormone production, leading to an unhealthy male/female ratio and eventually a population crash. The research also suggested that atrazine, the most popular herbicide in use today, may be causing similar effects. Val Beasley, coauthor of the study, says it’s hard to determine how serious the current problem is “because you can’t collect where the intersex rate was high. There aren’t any frogs left in those areas to collect.”