Young African Clawed Frogs regenerate lost and damaged tails and limbs

Young African Clawed Frogs regenerate lost and damaged tails and limbs. Adult African Clawed Frogs also regenerate their lost limbs, but the newly regenerated limb is often not fully functional.

The African Clawed Frog (Xenopus laevis) is an aquatic, freshwater amphibian in the Pipidae family of tongueless frogs. It is also known as the African Clawed Toad, or the African Claw-Toed Frog. It grows to 10-13 centimetres (4-5 inches) in length. 

African Clawed Frog

It has three short claws on each hind (back) foot. It has webbed feet only on its back feet. Its back legs are very powerful. It front legs have long fingers. 

It is completely aquatic, so it lives all of its life in water (unlike other frogs that live on land and in water). 

The African Clawed Frog loses the ability to regenerate limbs as it gets older. If an adult frog loses a limb, a tapered spike grows back – it looks more like a claw than a complete leg. So, it is sort of a leg, but it is imperfect.

Assistant Professor Nirosha Murugan at the Algoma University in Ontario, Canada, with researchers at Tufts University and Harvard University, put a silicone cap (with a mixture of regenerative drugs inside) onto a damaged frog limb for 24 hours. Over the next 18 months, the adult frog was then able to regrow a leg-like structure, with nerves, muscles, bones, and toe-like projections. It’s not a full limb, but it is almost a full limb, and it is more functional than the tapered spike that it would naturally regenerate. With the researchers help, the adult frog has a limb that moves like a complete leg. 

African Clawed Frog

Location of photographs: Tbilisi Zoo, Georgia

Photographer: Martina Nicolls


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