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Farm chemicals can indirectly hammer frogs

Ecologists firm up link between agricultural chemicals and potentially devastating flatworm infections

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12:52pm, October 29, 2008

Atrazine, the second-most widely used agricultural herbicide in America, can pose a toxic double whammy to tadpoles. The weed killer not only increases the likelihood that massive concentrations of flatworms will thrive in the amphibians’ ponds, a new study reports, but also diminishes the ability of larval frogs to fight infection with these parasites.

Moreover, the new data show, runoff of phosphate fertilizer into pond water can amplify atrazine’s toxicity. The fertilizer does this by boosting the production of algae on which snails feed. Those snails serve as a primary, if temporary, host for the parasitic flatworms, which can sicken frogs.

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