Toxicity of glyphosate-based pesticides to four North American frog species

Environ Toxicol Chem. 2004 Aug;23(8):1928-38. doi: 10.1897/03-71.


Glyphosate-based herbicides are among the most widely used pesticides in the world. We compared the acute toxicity of the glyphosate end-use formulation Roundup Original to four North American amphibian species (Rana clamitans, R. pipiens, R. sylvatica, and Bufo americanus) and the toxicity of glyphosate technical, the polyethoxylated tallowamine surfactant (POEA) commonly used in glyphosate-based herbicides, and five newer glyphosate formulations to R. clamitans. For R. clamitans, acute toxicity values in order of decreasing toxicity were POEA > Roundup Original > Roundup Transorb > Glyfos AU; no significant acute toxicity was observed with glyphosate technical material or the glyphosate formulations Roundup Biactive, Touchdown, or Glyfos BIO. Comparisons between the four amphibian species showed that the toxicity of Roundup Original varied with species and developmental stage. Rana pipiens tadpoles chronically exposed to environmentally relevant concentrations of POEA or glyphosate formulations containing POEA showed decreased snout-vent length at metamorphosis and increased time to metamorphosis, tail damage, and gonadal abnormalities. These effects may be caused, in some part, by disruption of hormone signaling, because thyroid hormone receptor beta mRNA transcript levels were elevated by exposure to formulations containing glyphosate and POEA. Taken together, the data suggest that surfactant composition must be considered in the evaluation of toxicity of glyphosate-based herbicides.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bufonidae*
  • Endocrine System / drug effects
  • Glycine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Glycine / toxicity*
  • Herbicides / toxicity*
  • Larva / growth & development
  • Lethal Dose 50
  • Metamorphosis, Biological / drug effects
  • Ranidae*
  • Receptors, Thyroid Hormone / genetics
  • Receptors, Thyroid Hormone / physiology
  • Signal Transduction
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / toxicity*


  • Herbicides
  • Receptors, Thyroid Hormone
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • glyphosate
  • Glycine