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J Exp Biol June 1, 2000; 203 (Pt 12): 1857-67.

Responses of young Xenopus laevis tadpoles to light dimming: possible roles for the pineal eye.

Jamieson D , Roberts A .

When the light is dimmed, the pineal eye of hatchling Xenopus laevis tadpoles excites the central pattern generator for swimming, but the behavioural significance of pineal excitation is unclear. We show that tadpoles spend 99 % of their time hanging from the surface meniscus or solid objects using mucus secreted by a cement gland on the head. Attachment inhibits swimming, but unattached tadpoles swim spontaneously. Provided that their pineal eye is intact, they attach closer to the water surface in the dark than in the light and attach preferentially to the underside of floating objects that cast shadows. Dimming causes tadpoles swimming horizontally to turn upwards and is very effective in initiating upward swimming in unattached tadpoles. Similar pineal-dependent responses during swimming are present up to stage 44. Pinealectomy blocks responses to dimming at all stages. Recordings from immobilised tadpoles reveal that light dimming induces faster fictive swimming and that pineal activity is increased for up to 20 min during sustained light dimming. We suggest that the increase in pineal discharge during dimming increases the probability of upward swimming and, in this way, increases the probability of tadpoles attaching to objects higher in the water column that cast shadows.

PubMed ID: 10821743
Article link: J Exp Biol

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