Some species of poison dart frogs behave differently to most other frogs; they take care of their offspring to improve their chances of survival. In fact, some species give their hatched tadpoles a piggyback to nearby water, making sure they get there safely. Researchers from Stanford University were keen to find the biological reason for this behavior and found clues to the neural cause of parental behaviors.
They investigated the brains of 25 caregiving frogs, and 59 non-caregiving frogs. In samples from all three species of caregiving frogs the team observed that a region in the brain, the preoptic area, was lit up with activity, but was not in the non-caregiving frogs. The preoptic area has been linked to caregiving behavior in other vertebrates, including mammals.
Another area of the brain, the medial pallium, also showed signs of activity in the caregiving frogs. This area is similar to the hippocampus in mammals, and has been linked to memory. The researchers suggest this area may be active as it helps the frogs to remember how to get their tadpoles to water.
The researchers plan to further investigate if this neural activity can be switched on and off, and if this switches the caregiving behavior on and off too. If successful it would shed light on how parenting is wired into the animal brain, and allow the researchers to investigate how this type of caregiving is heritable, and how it is beneficial to these species of frogs.
Source: Science News
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