, Volume 136, Issue 2, pp 219–224

Developmental morphology of granular skin glands in pre-metamorphic egg-eating poison frogs

Original paper

DOI: 10.1007/s00435-017-0344-0

Cite this article as:
Stynoski, J.L. & O’Connell, L.A. Zoomorphology (2017) 136: 219. doi:10.1007/s00435-017-0344-0


Parents in many taxa, including insects, molluscs, fish, snakes, and amphibians provision chemical defences, such as peptides, steroids, or alkaloids to their offspring to reduce the risk of predation. In most cases, those defences are transferred to offspring in the egg and gradually diminish throughout the larval period. Adult poison frogs sequester alkaloid-based defences from arthropod prey in granular skin glands. In at least one poison frog, Oophaga pumilio, mother frogs intermittently feed tadpoles until metamorphosis with nutritive eggs containing those alkaloid-based defences. However, alkaloids are not detected in tadpoles until they reach the middle stages of larval development. Here, we investigate the histology of a developmental series of O. pumilio tadpoles to determine whether their ontogenetic alkaloid profile coincides with granular gland development. Our findings suggest that alkaloid sequestration in tadpoles is delineated by the differentiation of rudimentary granular skin glands in epithelial tissue. The timing of differentiation of granular glands in this species coincides with other anurans. Thus, provisioning of chemical defences to offspring is likely constrained by developmental timing of derived structures that can effectively store those toxic or noxious compounds.


Alkaloid Ontogeny Poison gland Provisioning Tadpole 

Supplementary material

435_2017_344_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (4.2 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 4268 KB)

Funding information

Funder NameGrant NumberFunding Note
American Association of University Women
  • American Postdoctoral Fellowship
FAS Center for Systems Biology, Harvard University
  • Bauer Fellowship
  • Women in Science Fellowship
Harvard Medical School
  • William F. Milton Fund
International Society for Neuroethology
  • Konishi Research Grant
Division of Integrative Organismal Systems
  • 1528866

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BiologyColorado State UniversityFort CollinsUSA
  2. 2.FAS Center for Systems BiologyHarvard UniversityCambridgeUSA

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