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Can carotenoids mediate the potentially harmful effects of ultraviolet light in Silurana (Xenopus) tropicalis larvae?

Ogilvy, V., Preziosi, R. F.
Journal of animal physiology and animal nutrition 2012 v.96 no.4 pp. 701-707
Xenopus, amphibians, breeding, calcium, captive animals, carotenoids, diet, homeostasis, pigments, tadpoles, ultraviolet radiation, vitamin D
Amphibians have recently experienced unprecedented declines in the wild, the causes of which are often difficult to mitigate. This has increased the importance of ex situ conservation; however, long‐term maintenance and breeding of amphibians in captivity often has limited success. In vertebrates, vitamin D is required for calcium homeostasis and is produced endogenously in skin exposed to ultraviolet (UV) light; however, UV light can be harmful to amphibians in some instances. Carotenoids are dietary pigments that may provide protection from UV light. The aim of this study was to assess the protective capability of carotenoids against the potentially harmful effects of UV light in Silurana (=Xenopus) tropicalis larvae raised in an enhanced or limited UV environment. Tadpole survival and the size and developmental stage reached by the end of the study period were measured. Carotenoids had a significantly positive effect on developmental rate in both UV‐limited and UV‐enhanced environments. Larvae in an enhanced UV environment were significantly larger than those raised under a limited UV environment, irrespective of diet. Carotenoid‐fed larvae tended to have increased survival in relation to those raised without carotenoids, but only in a limited UV environment. Carotenoids appear to provide little protection against UV light in this case. The role of carotenoids in amphibian health has not previously been studied. We show that carotenoid availability significantly influences development and may increase survival in S. (X.) tropicalis larvae. This finding may have important implications for recommendations made on the nutrition of amphibians in captivity.