News and CommentEcology

Deformed Frogs Leap Into Spotlight at Health Workshop

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Science  19 Dec 1997:
Vol. 278, Issue 5346, pp. 2051-2052
DOI: 10.1126/science.278.5346.2051

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RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, NORTH CAROLINA-- When rumors of malformed frogs in America's northern Great Plains started circulating a few years ago, most wildlife scientists said the abnormalities suggested an early warning of environmental deterioration. But now three hotly contested theories have emerged: The main culprit is either a parasite, ultraviolet radiation, or an environmental chemical. To help determine whether what's hurting the frogs could also hurt humans, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences held a workshop here last week to take a critical look at the data. By the time the workshop ended, however, it was clear that far more questions than answers remain. Some frog researchers even argue that the alarm could be much ado about nothing: No one knows whether abnormalities are truly on the rise or if people have just become more assiduous at finding and reporting them.