Send to

Choose Destination
Comp Biochem Physiol A Mol Integr Physiol. 2007 Dec;148(4):720-31. Epub 2007 Feb 20.

Oxygen, gills, and embryo behavior: mechanisms of adaptive plasticity in hatching.

Author information

Department of Biology, Boston University, 5 Cummington St., Boston, MA 02215, USA.


Many species alter the timing of hatching in response to egg or larval predators, pathogens, or physical risks. This plasticity depends on separation between the onset of hatching competence and physiological limits to embryonic development. I present a framework based on heterokairy to categorize developmental mechanisms and identify traits contributing to and limiting hatching plasticity, then apply it to a case of predator-induced hatching. Red-eyed treefrogs have arboreal eggs, and tadpoles fall into ponds upon hatching. Egg and tadpole predators select for earlier and later hatching, respectively. Embryos hatch up to 30% early in predator attacks, and later if undisturbed. They maintain large external gills throughout the plastic hatching period, delaying gill regression while development otherwise continues. Rapid gill regression occurs upon hatching. Prolonged embryonic development depends on external gills; inducing gill regression causes hatching. External hypoxia retards development, kills eggs, and induces hatching. Nonetheless, embryos develop synchronously and without hatching prematurely across a broad range of perivitelline PO2, from 0.5-12.5 kPa. Embryos exploit spatial variation of PO2 within eggs by positioning gills against patches of air-exposed surface. Respiratory plasticity and oxygen-sensitive behavior appear critical for the hatching plasticity that balances a predation risk trade-off across life stages.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Elsevier Science
Loading ...
Support Center