Despite their potential vulnerability to contaminants from exposure at multiple life stages, amphibians are one of the least studied groups of vertebrates in ecotoxicology, and research on radiation effects in amphibians is scarce. We used multiple endpoints to assess the radiosensitivity of the southern toad (Anaxyrus [Bufo] terrestris) during its pre-terrestrial stages of development -embryonic, larval, and metamorphic. Toads were exposed, from several hours after oviposition through metamorphosis (up to 77 days later), to four low dose rates of 137Cs at 0.13, 2.4, 21, and 222 mGy d-1, resulting in total doses up to 15.8 Gy. Radiation treatments did not affect hatching success of embryos, larval survival, or the length of the larval period. The individual family variation in hatching success of embryos was larger than the radiation response. In contrast, newly metamorphosed individuals from the higher dose-rate treatments had higher mass and mass/length body indices, a measure which may relate to higher post-metamorphic survival. The increased mass and index at higher dose rates may indicate that the chronic, low dose rate radiation exposures triggered secondary responses. Additionally, the increases in growth were linked to a decrease in DNA damage (as measured by the Comet Assay) in red blood cells at a dose rate of 21 mGy d-1 and a total dose of 1.1 Gy. In conclusion, the complex effects of low dose rates of ionizing radiation may trigger growth and cellular repair mechanisms in amphibian larvae.

Document Type


Publication Date


Notes/Citation Information

Published in PLOS One, v. 10, no. 4, article e0125327, p. 1-13.

This is an open access article, free of all copyright, and may be freely reproduced, distributed, transmitted, modified, built upon, or otherwise used by anyone for any lawful purpose. The work is made available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)


Funding Information

This study was financed by the Savannah River Ecology Laboratory’s Education Program, the L. Namowitsky’s foundation, the Swedish Radiation Protection Authority (SSI), and the U.S. Department of Energy under Award Number DE-FC09-96SR18546 and FC09-07SR22506 to the University of Georgia Research Foundation. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

journal.pone.0125327.s001.XLSX (22 kB)
S1 Fig. Data file.