Delayed metamorphosis associated with large body size has been observed in Woodhousei fowleri tadpoles reared in continuous dark (DD). To evaluate the mechanism by which DD delayed metamorphosis, light-cycle exposure was controlled and thyroxine (T4), melatonin, or drugs that alter prolactin (Prl) concentrations were given to Xenopus laevis tadpoles. It was hypothesized that exogenous melatonin would delay metamorphosis and increase body size, and that elevation of Prl concentrations would have effects similar to melatonin exposure. Xenopus laevis tadpoles were randomized to three light conditions [light/dark (LD, 12 h/12 h), DD, and continuous light (LL)] and subgroups in each light condition were treated with T4, melatonin, bromocriptine (Bro), haloperidol (Hal), or no drug. Each subgroup included 12 tadpoles. Drugs were administered in the water either continuously or daily from 07.00 to 19.00 h (Intermittent). Measurements of total length, leg length, and stage of metamorphosis were obtained at regular intervals. DD resulted in delayed metamorphosis, while LL did not. T4 accelerated metamorphosis as expected, countering the delaying effects of DD. In contrast to the hypothesis, melatonin accelerated metamorphosis and impaired body size compared to controls. Intermittent Hal also accelerated metamorphosis, while Bro delayed it. In DD, both T4 and melatonin led to increased tadpole size in contrast to their counterparts in LD or LL. Delayed metamorphosis in DD is not caused by increased melatonin production. Melatonin and Hal (as given in this study) accelerate metamorphosis. Melatonin acceleration of metamorphosis may occur through alteration of the concentration of prolactin.
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