While a number of compounds have been reported as toxic to amphibians, until recently, there have been conspicuously few ecotoxicological studies concerning amphibians. Studies are now focusing on the effects of xenobiotics on amphibians, an interest likely stimulated by widespread reports of amphibian declines. It has been speculated that chemical contamination may be partially to blame for some documented amphibian declines, by disrupting growth, reproduction, and behavior. However, evidence that xenobiotics are directly to blame for population declines is sparse because environmental concentrations are typically not great enough to generate direct mortality. Although the effects of environmental contaminants on the amphibian immune system are currently unknown, it is possible that exposure to stressors such as organic pollutants (which enter ecosystems in the form of pesticides) may depress immune system function, thus allowing greater susceptibility to fungal infections. This chapter discusses toxicity testing for xenobiotics and presents the results of a study that has focused on the subtle effects of sublethal concentrations of the chemical carbaryl on tadpoles.
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