Automated high-throughput measurement of body movements and cardiac activity of Xenopus tropicalis tadpoles


  • Kay Eckelt Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia (IBEC)
  • Helena Masanas Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia (IBEC)
  • Artur Llobet Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBELL)
  • Pau Gorostiza Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia (IBEC)



Xenopus tropicalis, animal behavior, cardiac imaging, motion analysis, animal tracking, high-throughput in vivo assay


Xenopus tadpoles are an emerging model for developmental, genetic and behavioral studies. A small size, optical accessibility of most of their organs, together with a close genetic and structural relationship to humans make them a convenient experimental model. However, there is only a limited toolset available to measure behavior and organ function of these animals at medium or high-throughput. Herein, we describe an imaging-based platform to quantify body and autonomic movements of Xenopus tropicalis tadpoles of advanced developmental stages. Animals alternate periods of quiescence and locomotor movements and display buccal pumping for oxygen uptake from water and rhythmic cardiac movements. We imaged up to 24 animals in parallel and automatically tracked and quantified their movements by using image analysis software. Animal trajectories, moved distances, activity time, buccal pumping rates and heart beat rates were calculated and used to characterize the effects of test compounds. We evaluated the effects of propranolol and atropine, observing a dose-dependent bradycardia and tachycardia, respectively. This imaging and analysis platform is a simple, cost-effective high-throughput in vivo assay system for genetic, toxicological or pharmacological characterizations.


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How to Cite

Eckelt K, Masanas H, Llobet A, Gorostiza P. Automated high-throughput measurement of body movements and cardiac activity of Xenopus tropicalis tadpoles. J Biol Methods [Internet]. 2014Nov.5 [cited 2022Aug.19];1(2):e9. Available from: