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Analysis of gonadal development in atrazine exposed Ambystoma mexicanum, the axolotl.

Environmental endocrine disruptors (ED's) present a toxicological stressor in aquatic environments. Analysis of the effects of applied pesticides and fertilizers are two of the ED inputs that may be leading to declines in amphibian populations (Lannoo, 2005). Currently the Amphibian Growth Project has been exploring the effects of the pesticide atrazine on the model salamander Ambystoma mexicanum, the Axolotl (Putta et al., 2004). We hypothesized that Atrazine exposure may cause developmental and morphological anomalies in the treated Axolotls. Individual specimens from three separate experiments were assessed for morphological, and developmental differences (n = 530). Preserved specimens were assessed for gross exterior morphology, measured for SVL, gonads were dissected from individuals, weighed to the nearest .001 grams, and images of gonads were captured with a digital camera.

Gonad gross morphology was assessed visually using a dissecting microscope with a maximum magnification of 630X. Specimens were scored as males or females based on a scale modified from Ryan and Semlitsch, 1998. Digital photographs were manipulated in Photoshop CS2 and then analyzed with Image J software. Gonads were hand digitized and measured for total area and perimeter. Multivariate statistical evaluation has shown an effect of atrazine on gonads (p > .05). It appears that the effect is different between the sexes with atrazine having a stronger effect in relation to the development of ovaries.


This research was supported by NIH Grant Number P20 RR016741 from the INBRE Program of the National Center of Research Resources.


(1) Lannoo, M. (ed.). 2005. Amphibian Declines: The Conservation Status of United States Species. University of California Press, Berkeley. 1094 pp.

(2) Putta, S., and 14 others. 2004. From biomedicine to natural history research: expressed sequence tag resources for ambystomatid salamanders. BMC Genomics 5:54.

(3) Ryan, T. J. & Semlitsch, R. D. (1998). Intraspecific heterochrony and life history evolution: decoupling somatic and sexual development in a facultatively paedomorphic salamander. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 95, 5643-5648.

Kenneth C. Cabarle (1), Dwight K Blackhawk (2), and Christopher K Beachy (1)

(1) Department of Biology & Amphibian Growth Project, Minot State University, Minor, ND 58707, USA, (2) Department of Science, Fort Berthold Community College, PO Box 490, 220 8th Ave N, New Town, ND 58763
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Author:Cabarle, Kenneth C.; Blackhawk, Dwight K.; Beachy, Christopher K.
Publication:Proceedings of the North Dakota Academy of Science
Date:Apr 1, 2007
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