Visual avoidance in Xenopus tadpoles is correlated with the maturation of visual responses in the optic tectum.
The development of amphibian sensory systems and behavior is generally considered to proceed normally without reference to sensory experience during embryonic or larval stages. Most of the supporting research, however, has concentrated on the retinotectal (visual) systems of anurans and has ignored behaviors directed by other sensory systems. We demonstrate that early exposure to light is necessary for the development of photopositive behavior in Xenopus laevis tadpoles, a behavior probably directed by the pineal complex. Light-deprivation during the tadpoles' first 10 days of development results in a long-lasting reduction in the tadpoles' light preference. The development of a strong light preference is not influenced by light-deprivation before the tadpoles are 2 days old or after the tadpoles are 10 days old, but light-deprived tadpoles recover a weak light preference after subsequent days of rearing in the light. Lengthening the tadpoles' exposure to light during the first 10 days of development produces increasingly strong light preferences. Considering the important role of the pineal complex in guiding phototactic behaviors in anurans, we suggest that light-deprivation alters photopositive behavior in Xenopus tadpoles by altering the development of the pineal complex.