Global contamination with organochlorine compounds (OCs) has posed developmental and reproductive problems in wildlife worldwide. However, little is known about the impact of OCs or other pollutants on amphibians, despite mounting concerns about amphibian population declines and developmental deformities in the wild. Wildlife populations may be affected critically by sublethal impacts of anthropogenic disturbances, yet little research has focused on such effects in amphibians. In the current study, northern leopard frog (Rana pipiens) tadpoles were chronically exposed to a polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) congener, 77-TCB, and effects on behavior, morphology, competitive performance, and corticosterone content were determined. R. pipiens activity levels and feeding rates were decreased by 77-TCB exposure, but morphology of mouthparts and body proportions were unaffected. 77-TCB enhanced growth and altered competitive interactions between R. pipiens and wood frog (Rana sylvatica) tadpoles. R. pipiens tadpoles exposed to 77-TCB showed decreased whole-body corticosterone content compared to controls both before and after injection with adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). All of the factors examined in the current study play critical roles in tadpole development, growth, survivorship, and eventual reproductive success, suggesting negative population-level consequences for amphibians in PCB-contaminated habitats.
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