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Physiol Biochem Zool. 2002 Mar-Apr;75(2):155-64.

Hatching timing, oxygen availability, and external gill regression in the tree frog, Agalychnis callidryas.

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  • 1Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, P.O. Box 2072, Balboa, Panama.


The physiological role of the embryonic external gills in anurans is equivocal. In some species, diffusion alone is clearly sufficient to supply oxygen throughout the embryonic period. In others, morphological elaboration and environmental regulation of the external gills suggest functional importance. Since oxygen stress is a common trigger of hatching, I examined the relationships among hatching timing, oxygen stress, and external gill loss. I worked with the red-eyed tree frog, Agalychnis callidryas, a species with arboreal eggs and aquatic tadpoles in which gill regression is associated with hatching, and hatching timing affects posthatching survival with aquatic predators. Both exposure to a hypoxic gas mixture and submergence in water, a natural context in which hypoxic stress can occur, induced early hatching. Exposure to hyperoxic gas mixtures induced regression of external gills, and subsequent exposure to air induced early hatching. Prostaglandin-induced external gill regression also induced hatching, and this effect was partially ameliorated by exposure to hyperoxic gas. Together, these results suggest that external gills enhance the oxygen uptake of embryos and are necessary to extend embryonic development past the onset of hatching competence.

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