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Rana pipiens | Northern Leopard Frog | Photo by William Leonard

If you spend enough time on social media, you may come across some variation of the phrase "heal your gut, heal your brain." While the supplements peddled under such posts may be of dubious value, there is growing scientific research on the reciprocal relationships between vertebrate gut microbiomes and neurological development and function. Emerson and Woodley (2024) investigate the presence of the microbiota-gut-brain axis (MGB) in amphibians by raising Northern Leopard Frog (Rana (Lithobates) pipiens) tadpoles in untreated and autoclaved pond water. Autoclaving reduces the diversity of microbes found in pond water, meaning that the tadpoles were exposed to a different cohort of potential gut symbiotes between the treatments. The autoclaved water treatment produced tadpoles that were bigger, slower, less responsive to stimuli, and had smaller medulla – a brain region involved in physiology. The gut microbiomes of these tadpoles showed reduced diversity and altered composition. Furthermore, microbiome characteristics were correlated with behavior and brain morphology within and across treatments. Amphibian conservation will benefit from further research into the MGB axis; these findings are relevant for determining optimal rearing conditions of captive amphibians and suggest additional unexplored links between anthropogenic changes in environmental microbiota and amphibian neurodevelopment.

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Total Amphibian Species by Order

222 Caecilians 816 Salamanders 7,706 Frogs