50.1 Thursday, Jan. 5 Maternal transfer of contaminants and its effect on reproduction and embryonic development in southern toads (Bufo terrestris) METTS, B.S.*; BUHLMANN, K.A.; SCOTT, D.E.; TUBERVILLE, T.D.; HOPKINS, W.A.; Savannah River Ecology Lab, Aiken, SC; Savannah River Ecology Lab, Aiken, SC; Savannah River Ecology Lab, Aiken, SC; Savannah River Ecology Lab, Aiken, SC; Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA firstname.lastname@example.org
Environmental contamination is thought to be among the greatest contributors to worldwide amphibian declines. Bioaccumulation of contaminants and subsequent transfer to offspring could be an important factor that affects amphibian reproduction and development, but this process has rarely been examined in amphibians. We examined maternal transfer of contaminants in southern toads (Bufo terrestris) residing in three locations: 1) a coal ash disposal basin, 2) an adjacent natural wetland contaminated with coal ash that has undergone natural attenuation for over 35 years (ash plume), and 3) a reference site with no previously known contamination. Our study is among the few to document maternal transfer of contaminants and resulting adverse effects in amphibians. We found that females collected from the ash plume wetland and ash basin transferred elevated levels of eight trace elements to their eggs. After correcting for female body size, clutch size of females collected from the ash basin was 14% lower than reference females. Moreover, overall reproductive success was reduced 33-35% in females collected from the ash plume wetland and ash basin compared to reference females. These reductions were correlated with trace element concentrations in females and their eggs. Our findings highlight the negative effects that maternal transfer of contaminants can have on amphibian reproduction and emphasize the importance of future research investigating potential latent effects of maternal transfer and the influence that maternal transfer may have on local amphibian populations.