Algae in abundance: au natural, or a violation of Xenopus husbandry standards?

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Xenopus laevis, the African Clawed Frog, is well known to many laboratory animal facilities. This extremely aquatic and unique animal has no tongue, no externally visible ears, claws on some of its toes, a lateral line system analogous to that seen in fish, and in the wild is found in warm, stagnant ponds that are typically covered with algae. It is this last characteristic that became problematic for the Great Eastern University IACUC.

Dr. Simon Eaton had three 25-gallon tanks, each with two female X. laevis frogs which he kept in an 80 oF, temperature-controlled room near his office. Because Eaton was the only Xenopus user on campus, and because the number of frogs was small, the IACUC allowed Eaton to care for his own animals. The lab staff fed the animals daily and manually changed 10% of the dechlorinated water weekly. If any problems were noticed, the lab staff would immediately contact the vivarium. The vivarium’s animal care and veterinary staff checked the frogs twice weekly.

During a routine semi-annual inspection by the IACUC, the inspectors reported that they could barely observe the frogs due to algae overgrowth in the tanks. This was cited as a potential significant violation of husbandry standards. When questioned, Eaton explained that his new technician wanted to keep the tanks as natural as possible for the frogs, and because they normally lived in stagnant, algae covered ponds, he agreed to letting the tanks become covered with algae. Eaton added that he had initially discussed this with the animal facility personnel, and they accepted his rationale. There were no health problems with the animals, so he did not see why the IACUC should be concerned.

Should the IACUC be concerned or was Eaton’s lab acting within the standards of care for X. laevis?

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Correspondence to Jerald Silverman.

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Silverman, J. Algae in abundance: au natural, or a violation of Xenopus husbandry standards?. Lab Anim 49, 211 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41684-020-0595-0

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