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Factors affecting tadpole growth: Development of a rearing system for the Neotropical leptodactylid Physalaemus pustulosus for ecotoxicological studies

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image of Applied Herpetology

The frog Physalaemus is potentially useful for ecotoxicological studies in the Neotropics, and on the large and neglected family Leptodactylidae. The biology of adults and foam nests is well known but larval growth is little studied, with previous estimates of 40-60 days to metamorphosis. We investigated multiple factors affecting growth and development (water change; water flow; diet type; substrate type; background colour; temperature; container hygiene; aeration; tadpole age; tadpole relatedness) to develop a laboratory rearing system, which finally achieved better than 95% survival and 95% metamorphosis of survivors by 18 d after collection of nests. The final system comprised 10 tadpoles L−1 (360 m−2) in 1 L still water (changed every 3 d) or 2 L flowing water (flow 2-3 L d−1) 4 cm deep at room temperature of 27°C, with 10 g L−1 puddle soil dried at 110°C, and fed ad libitum on pellet fish food. The soil was the most important factor, giving faster growth and development than even warm water (33°C). Pellet food improved dissolved oxygen (DO) compared to flakes and was simpler to use, but gave similar tadpole performance (survival and growth). Aeration was not necessary; this increased DO but did not affect tadpole performance, and neither did background colour or mixing tadpoles from different nests.


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