We examined the respiratory behaviours and swimming kinematics of Xenopus laevis tadpoles hatched in microgravity (Space Shuttle), simulated microgravity (clinostat) and hypergravity (3 g centrifuge). All observations were made in the normal 1 g environment. Previous research has shown that X. laevis raised in microgravity exhibit abnormalities in their lungs and vestibular system upon return to 1 g. The tadpoles raised in true microgravity exhibited a significantly lower tailbeat frequency than onboard 1 g centrifuge controls on the day of landing (day0), but this behaviour normalized within 9 days. The two groups did not differ significantly in buccal pumping rates. Altered buoyancy in the space-flight microgravity tadpoles was indicated by an increased swimming angle on the day after landing (day1). Tadpoles raised in simulated microgravity differed to a greater extent in swimming behaviours from their 1 g controls. The tadpoles raised in hypergravity showed no substantive effects on the development of swimming or respiratory behaviours, except swimming angle. Together, these results show that microgravity has a transient effect on the development of locomotion in X. laevis tadpoles, most notably on swimming angle, indicative of stunted lung development. On the basis of the behaviours we studied, there is no indication of neuromuscular retardation in amphibians associated with embryogenesis in microgravity.

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