• development;
  • metamorphosis;
  • microgravity;
  • reproduction;
  • urodele amphibian

The FERTILE experiment was twice performed onboard the Mir space station during the Cassiopée and Pégase French space missions. The goal was to analyze the effects of microgravity on fertilization and embryonic development, and then on further development on the ground in the amphibian Pleurodeles waltl. The present paper reports development that occurred in the laboratory after landing. Recovered on the ground at the hatching stage, young larvae reared at room temperature underwent metamorphosis and became adults without obvious abnormalities. Of particular interest was the rearing temperature that induced a delayed metamorphosis for animals from the Cassiopée space mission, but not for animals from the Pégase mission. The rate of development and the morphology were analogous in these animals and in ground controls reared in a similar annual period. Analysis of offspring was performed using these animals. Males born in space were first mated with control ground-born females and then with females born in space. The mating gave progeny that developed normally. Depending on the methods used and on the limits of the analyses, the results clearly demonstrated that animals born in space were able to live and reproduce after return to the ground.