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J Exp Zool. 1999 Jul 1;284(2):207-16.

Environmentally induced limb malformations in mink frogs (Rana septentrionalis).

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Developmental Biology Center, University of California Irvine 92697, USA.


In recent years, there has been an increase in the incidence of frog deformities throughout many of the northern states of North America. The most readily noticed malformations involve the hindlimbs of peri-metamorphic animals. We have analyzed skeletal preparations of metamorphosing mink frogs (Rana septentrionalis) collected from a site in Minnesota, in order to develop a better understanding of the possible causes. In this paper we describe the categories of abnormalities found at this site. The spectrum of deformities includes missing limbs, truncated limbs, extra limbs (including extra pelvic girdles), and skin webbings. We also describe a newly recognized malformation of the proximal-distal limb axis, a bony triangle. In this abnormality, the proximal and distal ends of the bone are adjacent to one another forming the base of a triangle. The shaft of the bone is bent double and protrudes laterally, the midpoint of the bone forming the apex of the triangle. In this paper we consider several recently proposed explanations for the recent outbreak of amphibian deformities. Based on our analysis, we conclude that the spectrum of abnormalities seen in these frogs is remarkably similar to the range of abnormalities that has been reported as a result of exposure of developing vertebrates to exogenous retinoids. Given the potential implications of this possibility for the welfare of humans as well as wildlife, further studies are needed to determine whether environmental retinoids are responsible for the frog deformities at the site we have examined.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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