Green Male Frogs In The Suburbs Are Turning Into Females Due To Estrogen

Posted: Sep 9 2015, 6:12am CDT | by , in News | Latest Science News

 
Green Male Frogs in the Suburbs are Turning into Females due to Estrogen
Geoff Giller/Yale University
  • Frogs in Suburban Areas on a Gender Bender due to Estrogen, Shrubbery

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The green frogs in suburban areas of the United States are definitely on a gender bender of sorts. The estrogen levels in the surrounding areas and their sex ratio are changing rapidly.

Gender seems to be the issue at stake in the amphibian world in suburbia. The estrogens in suburban backyards is creating radical transformations in the sex ratio of male and female frogs.

The concentrations of estrogen have hit the roof, as shown in a new Yale study. And it is present in the shrubbery, well-kept gardens and trim lawns. The poor frogs’ endocrine systems are seriously out of whack thanks to these arrangements. Thus the number of females are increasing like crazy while the number of males is going way down.

Over 21 ponds were examined for evidence concerning the problem about three years ago. The research appears in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Today we know that the frogs are on a sexual see-saw ride that could mean ecological disruption and disaster.

The previous studies showed the same phenomenon occurring as a result of insecticide use and swill. The amphibian populations underwent several abnormal shocks. At least, in suburbia ponds, the number of females outnumbered the males many times over. This was indeed cause for concern.

"In suburban ponds, the proportion of females born was almost twice that of frog populations in forested ponds," said lead author Max Lambert, a doctoral student at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. "The fact that we saw such clear evidence was astonishing."

David Skelly, the Frank R. Oastler Professor of Ecology at Yale and director of the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History, is the senior author of the study.

Frogs that live in natural habitats such as forests and jungles have a balanced ratio of males to females. This ensures that each generation turns out right and Nature goes on in its usual course.

The food webs and cycles of birth, maturity, reproduction and dying are processes that go smoothly without a hitch. But what is occurring in areas populated by man has surprised scientists.

The pollution and effluents released into the environment spell trouble. Some of the ponds where the frogs reside have sewerage systems flowing into them. This of course plays havoc with the biochemistry of the frogs. Many researchers had to seek special permission from the home owners before venturing into their backyards to study the unfortunate frogs.

It was thought once upon a time that the neat houses of suburbia with everything hunky dory would not be a hazard for animals. But the sex ratio of the frogs proves once and for all that mankind’s interventionist ways have left Mother Nature at a loss as to what to do.

The sort of pristine environment that once existed has vanished for good and ugly technology and a crass chemical consumerism has replaced it for better or for worse.

"Our work shows that, for a frog, the suburbs are very similar to farms and sewage treatment plants," Lambert said. "Our study didn't look at the possible causes of this, partly because the potential relationship between lawns or ornamental plantings and endocrine disruption was unexpected."

Furthermore, some of the plants in the backyards as clovers were releasing phytoestrogens which made a mess out of the frogs’ hormones. Other amphibian species were just as likely to feel the effects of this meddling by human beings in their habitats.

"Some of our lab's current work is trying to understand how the suburbs influence sexual development in other species," Lambert said.

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