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Data from: How embryos escape from danger: the mechanism of rapid, plastic hatching in red-eyed treefrogs


Cohen, Kristina L.; Seid, Marc A.; Warkentin, Karen M. (2016), Data from: How embryos escape from danger: the mechanism of rapid, plastic hatching in red-eyed treefrogs, Dryad, Dataset,


Environmentally cued hatching allows embryos to escape dangers and exploit new opportunities. Such adaptive responses require a flexibly regulated hatching mechanism sufficiently fast to meet relevant challenges. Anurans show widespread, diverse cued hatching responses, but their described hatching mechanisms are slow, and regulation of timing is unknown. Arboreal embryos of red-eyed treefrogs, Agalychnis callidryas, escape from snake attacks and other threats by very rapid premature hatching. We used videography, manipulation of hatching embryos, and electron microscopy to investigate their hatching mechanism. High-speed video revealed three stages of the hatching process: pre-rupture shaking and gaping, vitelline membrane rupture near the snout, and muscular thrashing to exit through the hole. Hatching took 6.5-49 s. We hypothesized membrane rupture to be enzymatic, with hatching enzyme released from the snout during shaking. To test this, we displaced hatching embryos to move their snout from its location during shaking. The membrane ruptured at the original snout position and embryos became trapped in collapsed capsules; they either moved repeatedly to relocate the hole or shook again and made a second hole to exit. Electron microscopy revealed that hatching glands are densely concentrated on the snout and absent elsewhere. They are full of vesicles in embryos and release most of their contents rapidly at hatching. Agalychnis callidryas' hatching mechanism contrasts with the slow process described in anurans to date and exemplifies one way embryos can achieve rapid, flexibly timed hatching to escape from acute threats. Other amphibians with cued hatching may also have novel hatching mechanisms.

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