Skeletal advance and arrest in giant non-metamorphosing African clawed frog tadpoles (Xenopus laevis: Daudin)


Ryan Kerney, 1355 Oxford St, Biology Department, Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS, B3H 4J1, Canada. T: +1 902 494 3335; F: +1 902 494 3736; E:


This study examines the skeletons of giant non-metamorphosing (GNM) Xenopus laevis tadpoles, which arrest their development indefinitely before metamorphosis, and grow to excessively large sizes in the absence of detectable thyroid glands. Cartilage growth is isometric; however, chondrocyte size is smaller in GNM tadpoles than in controls. Most cartilages stain weakly with alcian blue, and several cartilages are calcified (unlike controls). However, cartilages subjacent to periosteum-derived bone retain strong affinities for alcian blue, indicating a role for periosteum-derived bone in the retention of glycosaminoglycans during protracted larval growth. Bone formation in the head, limb, and axial skeletons is advanced in comparison with stage-matched controls, but arrests at various mid-metamorphic states. Both dermal and periosteum-derived bones grow to disproportionately large sizes in comparison to controls. Additionally, mature monocuspid teeth form in several GNM tadpoles. Advances in skeletal development are attributable to the old ages and large sizes of these tadpoles, and reveal unexpected developmental potentials of the pre-metamorphic skeleton.