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Hänzi, Sara; Straka, Hans ORCID: 0000-0003-2874-0441 (2018): Wall following in Xenopus laevis is barrier-driven. In: Journal of Comparative Physiology A: Neuroethology, Sensory, Neural, and Behavioral Physiology, Vol. 204, No. 2: pp. 183-195
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The tendency of animals to follow boundaries within their environment can serve as a strategy for spatial learning or defensive behaviour. We examined whether Xenopus laevis tadpoles and froglets employ such a strategy by characterizing their swimming pattern in a square tank with shallow water. Trajectories obtained from video recordings were analysed for proximity to the nearest wall. With the exception of young larvae, the vast majority of animals (both tadpoles and froglets) spent a disproportionately large amount of time near the wall. The total distance covered was not a confounding factor, but animals were stronger wall followers in smaller tanks. Wall following was also not influenced by whether the surrounding walls of the tank were black or white, illuminated by infrared light, or by the presence or absence of tentacles. When given a choice in a convex tank to swim straight and leave the wall or turn to follow the wall, the animals consistently left the wall, indicating that wall following in X. laevis is barrier-driven. This implies that wall following behaviour in Xenopus derives from constraints imposed by the environment (or the experimenter) and is unlikely a strategy for spatial learning or safety seeking.