Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 25, Issue 20, pp 19470–19479 | Cite as

Differential sensitivity to the antifouling chemical medetomidine between wood frog and American toad tadpoles with evidence for low-dose stimulation and high-dose inhibition of metamorphosis

  • Peter P. FongEmail author
  • Olivia J. Lambert
  • Margot L. Hoagland
  • Emily R. Kurtz
Research Article


Antifouling chemicals are legacy contaminants in aquatic ecosystems. Previous experiments have shown that a 14-day exposure to the antifouling chemical medetomidine delays metamorphosis and reduces body mass in wood frog tadpoles. In the present study, we exposed wood frog tadpoles to medetomidine for 3, 7, and 10 days at 100 nM, 1 μM, and 10 μM. We also exposed American toad tadpoles to medetomidine for 3 days at four concentrations (10 nM, 100 nM, 1 μM, and 10 μM) in static renewal experiments. In each experiment, we measured growth, frequency and time to metamorphosis, and mass at metamorphosis. In both species, medetomidine significantly slowed development as measured by the Gosner stage. After 34 days in culture, wood frog tadpoles exposed to 1 and 10 μM medetomidine for as few as 3 days were significantly less developed compared to controls. Toads exposed to 1 μM medetomidine for 3 days were also significantly less developed on day 27, but by day 34, there was no difference from controls. For wood frogs, medetomidine significantly affected time to metamorphosis with a trend for tadpoles at lower concentrations metamorphosing sooner than those at higher concentrations. While medetomidine affected time to metamorphosis in wood frogs, it did not affect fresh mass, dry mass, or mortality compared to controls. Wood frog tadpoles that did not metamorphose after over 90 days in culture were more frequent in high-concentration groups than in the control. In toads, 10 μM medetomidine was 100% lethal within 23 days, but at the same concentration and duration, no wood frog tadpoles died. Lower concentrations were also significantly lethal to toads compared to controls, but tadpoles that survived in 10 and 100 nM metamorphosed sooner than those in 1 μM. Fresh mass of toad tadpoles exposed to 1 μm was significantly smaller at metamorphosis compared to that of controls. Medetomidine also affected the behavior of tadpoles. In toads, medetomidine significantly reduced both percent activity and startle response. In wood frogs, medetomidine significantly reduced percent activity, but increased startle response. We discuss our finding of low-dose stimulation and high-dose inhibition of different life history endpoints in terms of hormetic mechanisms. The differential sensitivity between species in terms of mortality, frequency of metamorphosis, and behavior highlights the potential negative environmental effects of medetomidine to amphibians.


Ecotoxicology Amphibians Medetomidine Tadpole Metamorphosis Aquatic Antifouling 



We thank an anonymous reviewer for helpful comments.

Funding information

This work was supported, in part, by the Cross-Disciplinary Science Institute at Gettysburg College (X-SIG) with funds from the John McCrea and Marion Ball Dickson Professorship and Science Fund and the Eric E. Kolbe’ 65 Student-Faculty Research Fund. Additional support was provided by the Biology Department and the Office of the Provost of Gettysburg College.

Compliance with ethical standards

The collection and use of all animals was approved by the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) of Gettysburg College.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter P. Fong
    • 1
    Email author
  • Olivia J. Lambert
    • 1
  • Margot L. Hoagland
    • 2
  • Emily R. Kurtz
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BiologyGettysburg CollegeGettysburgUSA
  2. 2.Department of Health SciencesGettysburg CollegeGettysburgUSA

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