Peter Polliwog Syndrome?
April 28, 2016 2:52 PM   Subscribe

Could a tadpole remain a tadpole, and never metamorphose, for a long time, years even? The internet implies that captivity, water temperature, or available nutrients could have an effect on prolonging a polliwog's larval state. But could this state, given the right conditions, persist for years?

Our coworker says when she was younger she had a tadpole which lived as a tadpole for some seven years in a bowl in her bathroom.
posted by RockyChrysler to Science & Nature (6 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Bullfrog tadpoles can take a couple years to finally decide to 'grow up'. In a bowl, without optimal conditions or food, I could see this being delayed even longer. And, little kids don't always have the best sense of the passage of time-- I remember believing I had a hamster that lived for "seven years" but in fact it was probably a year and a half.
posted by The otter lady at 3:04 PM on April 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

Some tadpoles overwinter as a tadpole and then become a frog the next spring. Google "overwinter tadpole" for details.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 3:22 PM on April 28, 2016

I know that there are bullfrog tadpoles that have taken 5 years and I had it in my head (before I read the more inside and saw the claim) that the most I had heard of was seven years.

I am the pollywog mom at school (collect and bring in eggs to the class rooms and take care of them until they are frogs, then release back to the vernal pool). The different conditions in different classrooms change the hatch/metamorphosis rate incredibly. Some frogs are long hatched and just about about froglets while some are just regular tiny pollywogs. (I normally collect wood frogs)
posted by ReluctantViking at 3:40 PM on April 28, 2016 [2 favorites]

(so I should add, in a typical home, I would think the development rate would be sped up slightly due to warmth. My guess is the kid-passage-of-time thing impacted the memory.)
posted by ReluctantViking at 3:49 PM on April 28, 2016

Was it a proper pollywog or was it perhaps an axolotl?
posted by Cold Lurkey at 5:26 PM on April 28, 2016

The lab down the hall used Xenopus tadpoles as their experimental model. In "captivity" - high population density, confined environs, steady temperature, stable light cycles, lack of any other outside cues - they remain tadpoles indefinitely; for limited values of indefinitely since they get used or sacrificed, but in theory they never metamorphose.

However very very very rarely one (out of a whole cohort) would develop and start growing legs and lose their tail.

These are not clonal tadpoles so I suspect that every so often one would inherit gene variants that predispose them to more easily metamorphose.

J.Ex.Bio Arrested development in Xenopus laevis tadpoles: how size constrains metamorphosis

J.Zoo... Caging, but not air deprivation, slows tadpole growth and development in the amphibian Xenopus laevis

J.Anat. Skeletal advance and arrest in giant non-metamorphosing African clawed frog tadpoles
posted by porpoise at 9:54 AM on April 29, 2016 [2 favorites]

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