Frogs and toads as biological indicators in environmental assessment

Edina Simon, Miklós Puky, Mihály Braun, Béla Tóthmérész

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

12 Citations (Scopus)


Frogs and toads are increasingly used as bioindicator organisms in pollution studiesin the past decades. However, a majority of anuran species are endangered and protectedin most European countries, which makes their study with traditional methods requiring alarge amount of tissue samples difficult. We describe the development and application ofa new analytical technique based on small amount of toe bones to study their elementalcontents. This method has a major advantage,that it is not necessary to kill the animalsfor its application, while the effects of anthropogenic activity on amphibians may stillwell be studied. The first aim of our study was to develop a method using the elementalcontents of frog bones that provides good estimates. For this purpose Rana esculenta L.individuals were collected from an urban pond in Debrecen (Hungary). Using thedeveloped method our follow up aim was to study the effects of urbanization on theelemental contents of toe bones. Bufo bufo individuals were collected also from the urbanpond in Debrecen and two rural ponds (Garancsi Pond and Lake Naplás).In the case of Rana esculenta L. individuals P, Ca, Mg, Mn, Na, S and Zn weremeasured in the skull, spinal, femur, tibia-fibula, tarsal bones, metatarsus, humerus anddigits from the front and hind limbs. The elemental contents of toe bones were measuredand also estimated from concentrations found in large bones. The measured andestimated elemental contents of toe bones did not differ significantly based onestimations from the element content of the following large bones: tibia-fibula, metatarsal bones. Thus, toe bones may represent the other parts of the skeletal system well in thisrespect. In the urbanization study the following elements were analyzed in the toe bonesof Bufo bufo: Ca, P, Mg, Zn, B. The urban and two rural ponds separated well on thebasis of the elemental contents of toad toe bones. We found significant differencesbetween the concentrations of elements at the urban and the rural sites. Our resultsshowed that the elemental contents of bones can be estimated using toe bones and frogsand toads could be useful indicators in the assessment of environmental contamination.Our study demonstrated that the effects of urbanization could also be studied by using theelemental contents of toe bones. The analytical method we developed during this workadded a further way to use toe bones, which is appropriate for the elemental analysis ofsmall samples. As a consequence, the described toe bone-based monitoring procedure isespecially useful because it does not require the killing of live specimens and can still beused to assess environmental load and contamination.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationFrogs
Subtitle of host publicationBiology, Ecology and Uses
PublisherNova Science Publishers, Inc.
Number of pages10
ISBN (Print)9781613246672
Publication statusPublished - Mar 1 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)

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    Simon, E., Puky, M., Braun, M., & Tóthmérész, B. (2011). Frogs and toads as biological indicators in environmental assessment. In Frogs: Biology, Ecology and Uses (pp. 141-150). Nova Science Publishers, Inc..