Red-eyed treefrogs, Agalychnis callidryas, lay jelly-covered egg clutches on leaves overhanging tropical ponds. Each clutch of several dozen transparent eggs is ready to hatch after only four days.
By delaying hatching by a few more days, frog embryos significantly increase their chances of survival as tadpoles in the pond below where predators lurk. But as each egg matures, and embryos need more oxygen, less and less of the vital substance is available inside.
Warkentin has measured oxygen levels as low as 2% air saturated in the middle of red-eyed treefrog eggs—yet the embryos refrain from hatching. "You'd think they would be dead. You'd think they would hatch. But they continue to develop at the same rate as embryos in eggs with much, much more oxygen," she explains. "Jessica found that these embryos maintain high metabolic rates and rapid, synchronous development by behaviorally positioning their external gills in a small high-oxygen area, a sweet spot near the exposed surface."
The team used a video camera to record embryo movement in the egg. By gently manipulating the eggs with a probe, Rogge turned the embryos within the eggs so that the gills were positioned away from the surface, in lower oxygen. "It's a lot like trying to pick something up out of a glass of water with your fingers," says Rogge, "the embryo 'wants' to be at the front of the egg, so unless I turned the embryo completely around in one motion it would come back to the front before I could finish spinning it."
Rogge found that even very young, neural-tube-stage embryos, before developing gills, blood, or the ability for muscular movement, kept their developing head in the oxygen sweet spot. "Once we started with the behavior research, it sort of snowballed and we suddenly got to the point where I spun the one-day-old embryos. We figured they would turn back, because they had ciliary rotation, but watching them ever so slowly return to the front, almost like clock-work, was amazing."
Rogge also induced embryos to lose their gills in the egg -- and was thus able to directly measure and compare the oxygen uptake ability of animals with and without gills, in eggs and in the water. "Embryos normally keep their external gills as long as they stay in the egg, but when they hatch they re-route the blood flow and the gills shrivel up in a matter of minutes" said Warkentin. "Now this makes sense. The external gills aren't much use to tadpoles, but they seem to be critical for embryos if they are to get enough oxygen."
People don't typically think of eggs as "doing" much. However, early development is a crucial time when death is a common occurance, and natural selection will favor any ability the embryo may have that increases its chances of survival.
Beth King | EurekAlert!
Immune Defense Without Collateral Damage
23.01.2017 | Universität Basel
The interactome of infected neural cells reveals new therapeutic targets for Zika
23.01.2017 | D'Or Institute for Research and Education
For the first time ever, a cloud of ultra-cold atoms has been successfully created in space on board of a sounding rocket. The MAIUS mission demonstrates that quantum optical sensors can be operated even in harsh environments like space – a prerequi-site for finding answers to the most challenging questions of fundamental physics and an important innovation driver for everyday applications.
According to Albert Einstein's Equivalence Principle, all bodies are accelerated at the same rate by the Earth's gravity, regardless of their properties. This...
An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...
Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...
Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.
While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...
Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales
Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...
19.01.2017 | Event News
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
23.01.2017 | Health and Medicine
23.01.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
23.01.2017 | Process Engineering