Welcome to tadpoles.org.uk

Tadpoles and using them to understand brains

Why a website about tadpoles?

An overview of Tadpoles.org.uk and why it is here

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Our Aim

We are scientists who study very young tadpoles to try to understand how the brain works by choosing the simplest example we could think of! Everyone finds tadpoles interesting, but especially children. So, we will tell you about tadpoles and then explain, bit by bit, how we study them.

Our studies are supported by a 3 year grant ending in 2017 from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC). Part of this funding is to explain what we do to and why we do it to as broad an audience as possible. This made it possible to build our tadpole website.


Outline of Website

The website is divided into 6 themes and the list here shows the contents:


KidsWhat are tadpoles? Where to find them? Looking after them.

——Life Cycle——Games——Tadpoles as pets

——So many eggs——Tadpole predators——Tadpole Food

——Food chains——Photographs


About: This site is about frog tadpoles biology  behaviour and brains.

——What is this website about?——What are frog tadpoles?

——Who are the scientists?——A tadpole Laboratory


Science:  Research on tadpole behaviour and how the brain controls it.

——Overview——Tadpole behaviour——Tadpole brains


Schools:  Tadpoles can help with syllabus on nervous systems.

——A Level——GCSE——KS3——KS1 & KS2


Games:  Taddypole Game and links to more games about ponds


Photographs: Photographs of frog spawn, tadpoles, frogs for your tadpole projects

Tadpole swims when touched at *

The details of swimming movements which hatchling Xenopus tadpoles make in response to touch with a fine hair  have been studied by making high speed videos at 200 fps. In these examples touch on the left (*) leads to a bend to the right followed by swimming. Waves of bending travel from the head to tail (at ~ 14 cm per second) and increase in amplitude as they travel along the body. They move the tadpole in the direction shown by the arrows. Swimming speeds at ~ 20 oC range from 4 to 6 cm per second.hatchling tadpole swims when touched at *

Kahn J.A., Roberts A. & Kashin S. (1982) The neuromuscular basis of swimming movements in embryos of the amphibian Xenopus laevis. J. exp. Biol.  99, 175‑184. http://jeb.biologists.org/cgi/reprint/99/1/175

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Adult South Africal Clawed toad Xenopus laevis

frog

         Xenopus laevis

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What Tadpoles Look Like

Tadpoles can start swimming spontaneously or when they are stimulated but it is just as important that they can stop. This normally happens when their head and cement gland bumps into the surface of the water or some other solid tadpoles swimmingobject like a plant or the side of a dish. This kind of stimulus and the tension in the mucus strand when the tadpole is hanging attached have an inhibitory effect on the tadpole. While hanging, it never moves spontaneously and is much less responsive to stimulation. This ability to keep still may make it more difficult for predators to detect and eat tadpoles. 

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Types of Neurons

There are different types of neurons in a nervous system and they are named depending on their function.

Schools_Alevel_aIN

Interneuron from Xenopus laevis tadpole

Broadly there are 3 main types:

  1. Sensory neurons
  2. Motor neurons
  3. Interneurons 

 

 

 

flex-behaviour

Flexion behaviour of hatchling tadpole in response to skin stimulation (represented by arrow).

When the skin of Xenopus laevis hatchling is touched, sensory neurons are activated, passing on exitation to sensory pathway neurons (interneurons) in the spinal cord, which in turn excite motor neurons, causing flexion behaviour

For more info on research into flexion behaviour click here. 

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Synaptic transmission (blank diagram)

pencil22small_foka.tkPrint and fill in the blank diagram with the key steps in the process of synaptic transmission:

synapse_labelled_blank

 

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Resting potential and action potential confusion!

General_Revisionstar

 

The terms resting potential and action potential can be confusing, as they seem to suggest that one is an active process and the other not.

 

Action potentials are actually produced by a passive process- sodium ions diffusing into the axon, causing depolarisation. 

Resting potentials are generated by an active process, which needs ATP. The sodium-potassium pump carries out active transport of ions in and out of the axon to generate a potential difference across the cell and a voltage of -60/70 mV inside the axon.

So even though the axon is said to be at “rest”, an active process involving energy in the form of ATP is actually going on. And even though the action potential sounds like it needs energy, it is actually a passive process.

Make sure you are clear on this!

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Axon, membrane or axon membrane?!

General_Revisionstar

 

Some exam boards prefer you to mention simply the “axon”, others just the “membrane”, or the “membrane of the axon”. 

 

When we are talking about a difference in charge over an area, we always refer to what area that is- for example a potential difference over the axon membrane. 

Some exam boards will prefer you say that the “membrane” or “axon membrane is depolarised”…but others will be happy with just the “axon is depolarised”

Check what is preferred by your exam board and incorporate into your notes links below:

 ⇒Edexcel

AQA

WJEC

OCR

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Exam Board Links

pencil22small_foka.tkClick on the links below to access the specifications for listed exam boards:

 

 ⇒Edexcel

AQA

WJEC

OCR

 

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Toad spawn

Toad eggs are the same size as Frog eggs but are laid in a string, often among weeds in the pond. The string can be more than 1 meter long and contain a double row of eggs. Here is a photo of a small piece from a pond in Hampshire.

A small piece of toad spawn from a pond in Hampshire.

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American Bullfrog

Below is an American Bullfrog. The Latin name of this frog is Lithobates catesbeianus. It is sometimes also called Rana catesbeianus. 

American_Bullfrog_(Rana_catesbeiana)_-_Algonquin_Provincial_Park_Ontario_By Ryan Hodnett Own work

Click here for more information on the American Bullfrog from the ARKive website.


Media credits: American Bullfrog-Ryan Hodnett

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