UCARE: Undergraduate Creative Activities & Research Experiences


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Cite this poster as: L. Micek, Impact of Nicotine Accumulation Exposure on Lithobates catebeianus Larvae Mortality, poster presentation, UCARE Research Symposium, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Spring 2020.

References cited:

Booth, D. J., Gribben, P., & Parkinson, K. (2015). Impact of cigarette butt leachate on tidepool snails. Marine pollution bulletin, 95(1), 362-364.

Mekonnen, Serkalem. “My Child Ate a Cigarette!” National Capital Poison Center, July 31, 2019. https://www.poison.org/articles/2013-jul/my-child-ate-a-cigarette.

Montalvão, M. F., Chagas, T. Q., da Silva Alvarez, T. G., Mesak, C., da Costa Araújo, A. P., Gomes, A. R., ... & Malafaia, G. (2019). How leachates from wasted cigarette butts influence aquatic life? A case study on freshwater mussel Anodontites trapesiali. Science of The Total Environment, 689, 381-389.

Slaughter, E., Gersberg, R. M., Watanabe, K., Rudolph, J., Stransky, C., & Novotny, T. E. (2011). Toxicity of cigarette butts, and their chemical components, to marine and freshwater fish. Tobacco control, 20(Suppl 1), i25-i29.

Wright, S. L., Rowe, D., Reid, M. J., Thomas, K. V., & Galloway, T. S. (2015). Bioaccumulation and biological effects of cigarette litter in marine worms. Scientific reports, 5(1), 1-10.


Copyright 2020 by the author.


Cigarette butts are the most littered item in the world and contain over 4,000 chemicals, including the organic compound nicotine (Slaughter et al. 2011). Billions of cigarette butts are littered each year which may wash into bodies of water, impacting the local wildlife. To determine how introduced chemicals impact the environment, it is important to study its effects on indicator species. Amphibians, such as Lithobates catebeianus, act as indicator species due to their extreme sensitivity to chemical changes in its environment. The purpose of this research project was to obtain data to help determine the impact nicotine accumulation has on L. catebeianus larvae mortality. With the help from local herpetologist and mentor, Dennis Ferraro, seventy-eight L. catebeianus larvae were caught and twenty larvae were placed in each of the three mesocosms. A nicotine solution containing 94% vegetable glycerin and 6% nicotine was used along with a bottle of 100% vegetable glycerin. Mesocosm 1 served as the control and received 0.94 mL of vegetable glycerin every three weeks, Mesocosm 2 received 1 mL of nicotine solution or 60 mg of nicotine every three weeks (0.05 cigarette butts worth of nicotine), and Mesocosm 3 received 10 mL of nicotine solution or 600 mg of nicotine (0.5 cigarette butts worth of nicotine) (Serkalem Mekonnen 2019). The results showed a strong correlation between increasing nicotine concentration and an increase in mortality. There was a 100% mortality rate in Mesocosm 3 after the first dosage of 600 mg of nicotine and an exponential increase in mortality in Mesocosm 2, with a 45% mortality rate by the end of study. In total, there was one L. catebeianus larvae mortality in Mesocosm 1, nine mortalities in Mesocosm 2, and 20 mortalities in Mesocosm 3 by the end of the 21-week study. This strong evidence demonstrates the detrimental impact cigarette pollution may have on the aquatic environment. If one of the thousands of chemicals found in cigarettes is this lethal, cigarette pollution may pose to be a larger threat to the environment than previously thought.