The Effects of Dietary Polybrominated Diphenyl Ether Exposure and Rearing Temperature on Tadpole Growth, Development, and Their Underlying Processes

Environ Toxicol Chem. 2021 Nov;40(11):3181-3192. doi: 10.1002/etc.5207. Epub 2021 Oct 5.


Depression of growth rate due to polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) has been documented in birds, mammals, amphibians, and fish at single temperatures. However, the underlying energetic mechanism for this effect and how it might change in relation to changing environmental temperature remain unstudied. We used a simple energy budget to address hypotheses regarding effects of PBDEs on tadpole (Lithobates pipiens) growth: that reductions in growth are linked to increased respiratory costs, reductions in digestive performance, differences in body composition, reductions in food intake, or a combination of these factors. From 18 days postfertilization (dpf) until 42 dpf, tadpoles were exposed dietarily to a pentabromodiphenyl ether mixture (DE-71TM ) at a concentration of 100 ng DE-71/g wet mass under a rearing temperature of either 22 or 27 °C. After 20 days of PBDE exposure, total PBDEs in tadpoles averaged 148.4 ng/g wet mass, with no differences by rearing temperature and approximately 50% higher than in their diet; controls not fed PBDE had levels <1 ng/g. Exposure to PBDE resulted in reductions in body length, mass, and development compared to controls, independent of rearing temperature; PBDE had no effect on measures of body composition, dry matter digestibility, or oxygen consumption. A simple energy budget using data from the present study revealed that a 10% decrease in feeding rate could explain the lower mass gain of tadpoles exposed to PBDE. Growth depression by PBDE could be due to (1) direct inhibition of growth processes by PBDE that indirectly decreases total energy demand and food intake, and (2) direct inhibition of food intake. Future studies to disentangle these possible pathways of PBDE effects are warranted. Environ Toxicol Chem 2021;40:3181-3192. © 2021 SETAC.

Keywords: Amphibian; Climate warming; Energetics; Lithobates pipiens; Pollutants.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dietary Exposure*
  • Halogenated Diphenyl Ethers* / analysis
  • Larva
  • Mammals
  • Rana pipiens
  • Temperature


  • Halogenated Diphenyl Ethers