African clawed frog
The African clawed frog (Xenopus laevis, also known as the platanna) is a species of South African aquatic frog of the genus Xenopus. (The word Xenopus means "Strange Foot" and laevis means "Smooth". )It can grow up to a length of 5 in (12 cm) with a flattened head and body, but no external ear or tongue. Its name is derived from the three short claws on each of its hind feet, which it probably uses to stir up mud to hide itself from predators. There are 14 species of Xenopus with the Xenopus gilli being the most endangered. They are all very close in appearance with different attributes to set them apart.
The species is found throughout most of Africa, and in isolated, introduced populations in North America, South America, and Europe. All species of Pipidae are tongueless, toothless and completely aquatic. They use their hands to shove food in their mouths and down their throats and a Hyobranchial Pump to draw or suck food in their mouth. Pipidae have powerful legs for swimming and lunging after food. They also use the claws on their feet to tear pieces of large food. They lack true ears but have lateral lines running down the length of the body and underside, this is how they can sense movements and vibration in the water. They use their sensitive fingers, sense of smell, and lateral line system to find food. They are a scavenger and will eat anything living, dying or dead and any type of organic waste.
These frogs are plentiful in ponds and rivers within the south-eastern portion of Sub-Saharan Africa. They are aquatic and are often greenish-grey in color. Albino varieties are commonly sold as pets. “Wild-type” ADFs are also frequently sold as pets, and often incorrectly labeled as a Congo Frog or African Dwarf Frog because of similar colorings. They reproduce by laying eggs (see frog reproduction).
The average life-span of these frogs ranges from 5 to 15 years with some individuals having been recorded to live for nearly 20 years. They shed their skin every season, and eat their own shed skin.
Although lacking a vocal sac, the males make a mating call of alternating long and short trills, by contracting the intrinsic laryngeal muscles. Most unusually, females also answer vocally, signaling either acceptance (a rapping sound) or rejection (slow ticking) of the male. This frog has smooth slippery skin which is multicolored on its back with blotches of olive gray or brown. The underside is creamy white with a yellow tinge.
Male and female frogs can be easily distinguished through the following differences. Male frogs are usually about 20% smaller then females, with slim bodies and legs. Males make mating calls to attract females, sounding very much like a cricket calling underwater. Females are larger than the males, appearing far more plump with hip-like bulges above their rear legs (where their eggs are internally located). They also have a cloaca, a small bump between their hind legs where their eggs and waste are passed. While they do not sing or call out like males do, they do answer back (an extremely unique phenomenon in the animal world). The female frog makes a soft rapping call for acceptance or a slow ticking call for rejection.
In the wild
In the wild Xenopus laevis are native to wetlands, ponds and lakes across arid/semiarid regions of southern Africa. Xenopus laevis and Xenopus muelleri occur along the western boundary of the Great African Rift. The people of the sub-Saharan are very familiar with this frog. They use Xenopus as a source of protein, aphrodisiac or fertility medicine in their culture. Wild Xenopus are gigantic when compared to their captive bred species.
Use in research
Although X. laevis does not have the short generation time and genetic simplicity generally desired in genetic model organisms, it is an important model organism in developmental biology. X. laevis takes 1 to 2 years to reach sexual maturity and, like most of its genus, it is tetraploid. However, it does have a large and easily manipulable embryo. The ease of manipulation in amphibian embryos has given them an important place in historical and modern developmental biology. A related species, Xenopus tropicalis, is now being promoted as a more viable model for genetics. Roger Wolcott Sperry used X. laevis for his famous experiments describing the development of the visual system. These experiments led to the formulation of the Chemoaffinity hypothesis.
Xenopus oocytes provide an important expression system for molecular biology. By injecting DNA or mRNA into the oocyte or developing embryo, scientists can study the protein products in a controlled system. This allows rapid functional expression of manipulated DNAs (or mRNA). This is particularly useful in electrophysiology, where the ease of recording from the oocyte makes expression of membrane channels attractive. One challenge of oocyte work is eliminating native proteins that might confound results, such as membrane channels native to the oocyte. Translation of proteins can be blocked or splicing of pre-mRNA can be modified by injection of Morpholino antisense oligos into the oocyte (for distribution throughout the embryo) or early embryo (for distribution only into daughter cells of the injected cell).
Extracts from the eggs of X. laevis frogs are also commonly used for biochemical studies of DNA replication and repair, as these extracts fully support DNA replication and other related processes in a cell-free environment which allows easier manipulation.
The first vertebrate cloning ever was done was of an African clawed frog.
The space shuttle Endeavour launched into space on September 12, 1992. With it went the first Japanese astronaut, the first American woman astronaut and African Clawed Frogs. Scientists wanted to know if reproduction and development could be at normal levels in zero gravity. They raised X. laevis tadpoles to test this theory.
X. laevis is also notable for its use as the first well-documented method of pregnancy testing when it was discovered that the urine from pregnant women induced X. laevis oocyte production. Human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) is a hormone found in substantial quantities in the urine of pregnant women. Today, commercially available HCG is injected into Xenopus males and females to induce mating behavior and breed these frogs in captivity at any time of the year.
Xenopus laevis have been kept as pets and research subjects as early as the 1950's. They are extremely hardy and long lived, having been known to live up to 20 years in captivity.
Due to having been released and escaping into the wild, these frogs are illegal in many of the United States. In the following states it is illegal to own, transport or sell African Clawed Frogs without a permit: Arizona, California, Kentucky, Louisiana, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Virginia, Hawaii, Nevada, Washington state. Xenopus laevis are legal in Canada. African Clawed Frogs are voracious predators and easily adapt to many habitats. If you own these frogs please do not release them into the wild for any reason as they easily become harmful invasive species. Keeping them in outdoor ponds is a risk for them escaping as well. They can travel short distances to other bodies of water. Some have even been documented to survive mild freezes. They have been shown to devastate native populations of frogs and other creatures by eating their young.
African Clawed Frogs are frequently mislabeled at African Dwarf Frogs in pet stores. The astute pet owner will recognize the difference, however, because of the following characteristics:
- Dwarf frogs have four webbed feet. African Clawed Frogs have webbed hind feet while their front feet have autonomous digits.
- African Clawed frogs are often found in albino varieties. No such morphology exists for the African Dwarf Frog.
- African Dwarf Frogs have eyes positioned on the side of their head, while African Clawed Frogs have eyes on the top of their heads
- African Clawed Frogs have curved, flat snouts. The snout of an African Dwarf Frog is pointed.
As a pest
When African clawed frogs are imported into non-native countries, they have the capacity to wreck entire ecosystems by eating native wildlife that have no natural defense against these creatures.
In 2003, these frogs were discovered in a pond at San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, where much debate exists on how to terminate these creatures and keep them from spreading. It is unknown if these frogs entered the San Francisco ecosystem through intentional release or escape into the wild.
Because these frogs are immune to the fungi Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (a chytridomycota) and B. dendrobatidis has been traced back to the habitat of Xenopus laevis in Africa, many scholars believe it is the source of the worldwide frog population crash. Due to its extensive use in obstetrics and research, it appears Xenopus laevis has carried B. dendrobatidis with it out of Africa to all over the world, causing chytridomycosis and eventually death in native frogs naïve to the fungi.
- ^ Tinsley et al. (2004). Xenopus laevis. 2006. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN 2006. www.iucnredlist.org. Retrieved on 12 May 2006. Database entry includes a range map and justification for why this species is of least concern
- ^ http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Xenopus_laevis.html
- ^ ADW: Xenopus Laevis: Information
- ^ [http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=123651128 ADW: NPR: Listening To Love Songs of African Clawed Frogs]
- ^ Comparison of morpholino based translational inhib...[Genesis. 2001] - PubMed Result
- ^ Blow JJ, Laskey RA (1986 month = November). "Initiation of DNA replication in nuclei and purified DNA by a cell-free extract of Xenopus eggs..". Cell 47 (4): 577–87. PMID 3779837.
- ^ [ http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1P2-1025097.html ADW: Frog Eggs Fertilized on Endeavour]
- ^ ADW: Reading Eagle - Sep 11, 1992
- ^ ADW: Honolulu Star-Bulletin Wednesday, July 3, 2002
- ^ ADW: New Brunswick Regulation 92-74
- ^ ADW: New Brunswick Acts and regulations
- ^ ADW: Columbia: Introduced Species Summary Project
- ^ "Killer Meat-Eating Frogs Terrorize San Francisco". FoxNews. http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,258519,00.html.
- ^ "The Killer Frogs of Lily Pond:San Francisco poised to checkmate amphibious African predators of Golden Gate Park". San Francisco Chronicle. http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/03/12/BAGLUOJLDE1.dlkhgidofyugDTL.