GENTECH archive 8.96-97


Frogs ...

>Malformed Midwest frogs leave scientists puzzled
>October 9, 1996 Web posted at: 10:00 p.m. EDT
>HENDERSON, Minnesota (AP) -- Bruce Nelson was catching frogs for catfish
>bait last year when he realized something was horribly wrong: Some of the
>frogs had stumps for legs, and others had as many as four tangled hind
>"You see deformed things all the time in nature, but nothing like this,"
>said Nelson, who made his discovery in a pond near Fisher's Landing in
>northeastern Minnesota.
>All across Minnesota, into neighboring Wisconsin and South Dakota and in
>Quebec, scientists and locals are seeing the same kind of grotesquely
>misshapen limbs, along with frogs with tails, missing or shrunken eyes,
>and smaller sex organs.
>In fact, scientists have had a hard time finding wetlands in Minnesota
>with no deformed frogs. Most recently, deformed frogs were found in
>"It scares me," said Judy Helgen, a research scientist with the Minnesota
>Pollution Control Agency. "I'm at different levels of getting a chill down
>my spine."
>Scientists aren't sure what's causing the deformities. Theories run the
>gamut from pesticides to parasites to radiation from ozone depletion, or
>some combination of factors.
>Are humans in danger?
>What worries many is whether humans are in danger, too.
>"There's a reasonable assumption that if there's an external substance
>influencing amphibian development, it could influence human development,"
>said David Hoppe, who is on a state-financed team of scientists
>researching the problem.
>So far, little has been discovered. The federal Environmental Protection
>Agency plans to do its own study.
>Students from the Minnesota New Country School in Le Sueur, in the heart
>of the state's farm country, first reported the deformed leopard frogs
>during a field trip to a wetland last year.
>They reported their findings to the pollution control agency, then to
>state lawmakers, and finally went worldwide by putting their information
>and pictures of the frogs on the Internet.
>"When somebody caught a frog without one leg," 13-year-old Jack Bovee told
>a state House committee this year, "I thought, `Houston, we have a
>Aquatic frogs most affected
>Cindy Reinitz, the teacher who has become known as "The Frog Lady" since
>her middle school students made the discovery, said there is at least once
>person with cancer in every household around the wetland. But scientists
>have made no direct link between the frog abnormalities and cancer.
>A newly created frog hot line has received hundreds of reports of deformed
>frogs, from 54 of the state's 87 counties.
>The fact that the abnormalities are widespread suggests the problem has
>more than one source, said Hoppe, a herpetologist from the University of
>Minnesota at Morris.
>His best guess of the cause is some sort of water pollution, possibly from
>something airborne. That could come from heavy metals, pesticides or a
>whole array of things that settle onto the landscape.
>In researching some 10,000 frogs this summer, Hoppe said, he found that
>aquatic frogs had the worst abnormalities.
>"I was very surprised, startled even," he said, "because I've seen a lot
>of frogs over the years and I've never seen anything like that."
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