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Flow cytometry (FC) is a laboratory method used to detect genetic damage induced by environmental contaminants and other stressors in animals, including amphibians. We tested FC methods on three species of ranid frogs collected from farm ponds and natural wetlands in southeastern Minnesota. We compared FC metrics for Rana clamitans between ponds with direct exposure to agricultural contaminants and reference (unexposed) ponds. Concentrations of atrazine in water from our farm ponds ranged from 0.04 to 0.55 ppb. We found that R. clamitans from exposed ponds had DNA content similar to frogs from unexposed ponds. Pond-averaged C-values (a measure of DNA content) ranged from 6.53 to 7.08 for R. pipiens (n . 13), 6.55 to 6.60 for R. clamitans (n . 40) and 6.74 for R. palustris (n . 5). Among all species, the mean sample CVs ranged from 1.91 (R. palustris) to 6.31 (R. pipiens). Deformities were observed in only 2 of 796 individuals among all species and occurred in both reference and exposed ponds. Although we did not detect evidence of DNA damage associated with agriculture in our study, we demonstrated the potential of FC for screening amphibian populations for genetic damage. Metrics from a variety of amphibian species and locations as well as laboratory studies are needed to further assess the value of FC for monitoring amphibian genetic integrity in contaminated sites.
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Flow cytometry used to assess genetic damage in frogs from farm ponds