During the post-embryonic developmental growth of animals, a number of physiological parameters such as locomotor performance, dynamics and behavioural repertoire are adjusted to match the requirements determined by changes in body size, proportions and shape. Moreover, changes in movement parameters also cause changes in the dynamics of self-generated sensory stimuli, to which motion-detecting sensory systems have to adapt. Here, we examined head movements and swimming kinematics of Xenopus laevis tadpoles with a body length of 10 to 45 mm (developmental stage 46 to 54) and compared these parameters to fictive swimming, recorded as ventral root activity in semi-intact in-vitro preparations. Head movement kinematics was extracted from high-speed video recordings of freely swimming tadpoles. Analysis of these locomotor episodes indicated that the swimming frequency decreased with development, along with the angular velocities and accelerations of the head, which represent self-generated vestibular stimuli. In contrast, neither head oscillation amplitudes nor forward velocities changed with development despite the ∼3-fold increase in body size. The comparison between free and fictive locomotor dynamics revealed very similar swimming frequencies for similarly sized animals, including a comparable developmental decrease of the swimming frequency. Body morphology and the motor output rhythm of the spinal central pattern generator therefore develop concurrently. This study thus describes development-specific naturalistic head motion profiles, which form the basis for more natural stimuli in future studies probing the vestibular system.
- Received July 19, 2016.
- Accepted October 23, 2016.
- © 2016. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd