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Image Gallery: Tadpoles Sport Eyes on Their Tails

A Tale of Wonky Eyes

tadpole with eye on its tail

(Image credit: Douglas Blackiston )

Researchers successfully implanted eye tissue in the tails of blind tadpoles of African clawed frogs, giving the tadpoles vision. The findings, detailed in the Feb. 27, 2013, issue of the Journal of Experimental Biology, could help guide therapies involving natural or artificial implants, scientists added.

Eye Removal

tadpole with eye on its tail

(Image credit: Douglas Blackiston)

The researchers removed the eye tissue (red arrow) from the developing embryo of an African frog.

Eye Graft

tadpole with eye on its tail

(Image credit: Douglas Blackiston)

Here, an African frog embryo immediately following the tissue graft to implant an eye on its tail (white arrow).

Eye Healing

tadpole with eye on its tail

(Image credit: Douglas Blackiston)

The wound from the tissue graft has healed for 24 hours in this image.

Vision Test

tadpole with eye on its tail

(Image credit: Douglas Blackiston)

These experimental tadpoles (shown here) then received a vision test the researchers first refined on normal tadpoles. The tadpoles were placed in a circular arena half illuminated with red light and half with blue light, with software regularly switching what color light the areas received.

Zapped

tadpole with eye on its tail

(Image credit: Douglas Blackiston)

When tadpoles with tail eyes (shown here) entered places lit by red light, they received a tiny electric zap. A motion-tracking camera kept tabs on where the tadpoles were.

Sprouting Nerves

nerves shown on tadpole with eye on its tail

(Image credit: Douglas Blackiston)

Nerves begin to grow in the area around the tadpole's ectopic eye, though they aren't nerves coming directly from that eye.

Fin Nerves

nerves growing on tadpole with eye on its tail

(Image credit: Douglas Blackiston)

Here nerves in the fin of a tadpole in the study.

A Little Help From the Spine

tadpole with eye on its tail

(Image credit: Douglas Blackiston)

The six tadpoles that could see well in the study all had nerves plugged into their spine, which makes sense — their eyes apparently linked with their central nervous system.

Augmentation Tech

tadpole with eye on its tail

(Image credit: Douglas Blackiston)

"This has implications not only for regenerative medicine — replacing damaged sensory and motor organs — but also for augmentation technology," said researcher Michael Levin, a developmental biologist at Tufts University. "Perhaps you'd like some more eyes, maybe ones that see in infrared?"