Zoology A Closer Look: Xenopus laevis (African Clawed Frog)

Discussion in 'Zoology' started by mscbkc070904, Feb 27, 2005.

  1. mscbkc070904

    mscbkc070904 Premium Member

    African Clawed Frog

    Kingdom: Animalia
    Phylum: Chordata
    Subphylum: Vertebrata
    Class: Amphibia
    Order: Anura
    Family: Pipidae
    Genus: Xenopus
    Species: Xenopus laevis

    Geographic Range
    Xenopus laevis occurs naturally in southern Africa. There are substantial introduced populations in California, Chile, Great Britain, and probably many other locations around the world.

    X. laevis lives in warm, stagnant grassland ponds as well as in streams in arid and semi-arid regions. The ponds are usually devoid of any higher plant vegetation, and covered in green algae. X. laevis can tolerate wide variation in water pH, but the presence of metal ions proves toxic. It thrives in temperatures from 60 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. It is almost totally aquatic, only leaving the water when forced to migrate.

    Physical Description
    X. laevis has a unique morphology because it lacks a tongue and a visible ear. The body is flattened and head is wedge-shaped and smaller than the body. It has two small eyes found on the top of the head and no eyelids. Its front limbs are small and are not webbed, and its hind legs are large and webbed and the three inside toes on either foot have claws. It has smooth slippery skin which is multicolored on its back with blotches of olive gray or brown and gray, while the underside is creamy white with a yellow tinge. It has lateral lines along its back. Males weigh about 60 grams, are about 5 to 6 centimeters long, and lack a vocal sac, which most male frogs have. Females weigh about 200 grams, are about 10 to 12 centimeters long, and have cloacal extensions at the end of the abdomen.

    X. laevis is sexually mature in 10 to 12 months. Mating can take place during any time of the year, but is most common in the spring, and can take place up to four times per year. Males vocalize during the evening to attract females. Although the male lacks a vocal sac, it produces a mating call by rapid contractions of the intrinsic laryngeal muscles. This mating call sounds like alternating long and short trills. After the female hears this, she responds with either an acceptance call (a rapping sound) or a rejection call (slow ticking sound). This is a nearly unique behavior in the animal world; rarely does a female answer the males call. Mating often takes place at night, when there are few disturbances. The male develops mating pads on the underside of his forearms and hands. The mating embrace, amplexus, is pelvic, whereas most frogs have axillary (front limb) amplexus. The female can release hundreds of sticky eggs during the 3 to 4 hour event, which are typically attached to plants or other anchors, one or more at a time. The eggs grow into tadpoles, which filter feed. The tadpole metamorphoses into a small froglet, with the tail being absorbed into the body and sustaining its nutritional requirements during this period, which lasts about 4 to 5 days. The total change from egg to small frog takes about 6 to 8 weeks.

    X. laevis is a rather inactive creature. It is incredibly hardy and can live up to 15 years. At times the ponds that X. laevis is found in dry up, compelling it, in the dry season, to burrow into the mud, leaving a tunnel for air. It may lie dormant for up to a year. If the pond dries up in the rainy season, X. laevis may migrate long distances to another pond, maintaining hydration by the rains. It is an adept swimmer, swimming in all directions with ease. It is barely able to hop, but it is able to crawl. It spends most of its time underwater and comes to surface to breathe. Respiration is predominantly through its well developed lungs; there is little cutaneous respiration

    Food Habits
    X. laevis is a scavenger and eats living, dead, or dying arthropods and other pieces of organic waste. It has a voracious appetite and attacks anything that passes in front of it. It uses extremely sensitive fingers, an acute sense of smell, and its lateral line systems to locate food. Lateral line systems, usually found in fish, detect vibrations in the water. It uses a hyobranchial pump to suck food into its mouth. The claws on its hind feet tear apart larger pieces of food. Tadpoles are exclusively filter feeders

    Economic Importance for Humans: Positive
    X. laevis has been used extensively as a laboratory research animal, mostly in the field of vertebrate embryology because females are prolific egg layers and embryos are transparent, making it easy to observe the development of the embryo. During the 1940's, female X. laevis were injected with the urine of a woman. If the human was pregnant, then the injected frog would start to produce eggs. X. laevis was the first vertebrate cloned in the laboratory. Magainins are a family of antibiotics found in the skin of X. laevis, which heals wounded skin rapidly. Magainin is an antibiotic, antifungal, antiparasitic, and antiviral, probably useful to the frog because of the stagnant, microbe filled waters in which it lives in. These magainins have been tested as an antibiotic cream, which works just as well as an oral antibiotic, but without the side effects. X. laevis is also used in lab because it is very easy to care for, breed, and observe.

    Conservation Status
    It is an invasive species all over world because it was used in human pregnancy tests in the 1940's. When more effective means of pregnancy tests were made available, many X. laevis were released all over the world.

    The only photos I found were color drawings. However, it looks like a regular frog except with like claw toes on the ends. I just thought it was interesting for what it was used for.