All Publications

  • Tissue-specific in vivo transformation of plasmid DNA in Neotropical tadpoles using electroporation. PloS one Delia, J., Gaines-Richardson, M., Ludington, S. C., Akbari, N., Vasek, C., Shaykevich, D., O'Connell, L. A. 2023; 18 (8): e0289361


    Electroporation is an increasingly common technique used for exogenous gene expression in live animals, but protocols are largely limited to traditional laboratory organisms. The goal of this protocol is to test in vivo electroporation techniques in a diverse array of tadpole species. We explore electroporation efficiency in tissue-specific cells of five species from across three families of tropical frogs: poison frogs (Dendrobatidae), cryptic forest/poison frogs (Aromobatidae), and glassfrogs (Centrolenidae). These species are well known for their diverse social behaviors and intriguing physiologies that coordinate chemical defenses, aposematism, and/or tissue transparency. Specifically, we examine the effects of electrical pulse and injection parameters on species- and tissue-specific transfection of plasmid DNA in tadpoles. After electroporation of a plasmid encoding green fluorescent protein (GFP), we found strong GFP fluorescence within brain and muscle cells that increased with the amount of DNA injected and electrical pulse number. We discuss species-related challenges, troubleshooting, and outline ideas for improvement. Extending in vivo electroporation to non-model amphibian species could provide new opportunities for exploring topics in genetics, behavior, and organismal biology.

    View details for DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0289361

    View details for PubMedID 37590232

  • Home security cameras as a tool for behavior observations and science equity. bioRxiv : the preprint server for biology Goolsby, B. C., Fischer, M., Pareja-Mejia, D., Lewis, A. R., Raboisson, G., Oa Connell, L. A. 2023


    Reliably capturing transient animal behavior in the field and laboratory remains a logistical and financial challenge, especially for small ectotherms. Here, we present a camera system that is affordable, accessible, and suitable to monitor small, cold-blooded animals historically overlooked by commercial camera traps, such as small amphibians. The system is weather-resistant, can operate offline or online, and allows collection of time-sensitive behavioral data in laboratory and field conditions with continuous data storage for up to four weeks. The lightweight camera can also utilize phone notifications over Wi-Fi so that observers can be alerted when animals enter a space of interest, enabling sample collection at proper time periods. We present our findings, both technological and scientific, in an effort to elevate tools that enable researchers to maximize use of their research budgets. We discuss the relative affordability of our system for researchers in South America, which is home to the largest population of ectotherm diversity.

    View details for DOI 10.1101/2023.04.17.537238

    View details for PubMedID 37131676

  • Contrasting parental roles shape sex differences in poison frog space use but not navigational performance. eLife Pasukonis, A., Serrano-Rojas, S. J., Fischer, M., Loretto, M., Shaykevich, D. A., Rojas, B., Ringler, M., Roland, A. B., Marcillo-Lara, A., Ringler, E., Rodriguez, C., Coloma, L. A., O'Connell, L. A. 2022; 11


    Sex differences in vertebrate spatial abilities are typically interpreted under the adaptive specialization hypothesis, which posits that male reproductive success is linked to larger home ranges and better navigational skills. The androgen spillover hypothesis counters that enhanced male spatial performance may be a byproduct of higher androgen levels. Animal groups that include species where females are expected to outperform males based on life-history traits are key for disentangling these hypotheses. We investigated the association between sex differences in reproductive strategies, spatial behavior, and androgen levels in three species of poison frogs. We tracked individuals in natural environments to show that contrasting parental sex roles shape sex differences in space use, where the sex performing parental duties shows wider-ranging movements. We then translocated frogs from their home areas to test their navigational performance and found that the caring sex outperformed the non-caring sex only in one out of three species. In addition, males across species displayed more explorative behavior than females and androgen levels correlated with explorative behavior and homing accuracy. Overall, we reveal that poison frog reproductive strategies shape movement patterns but not necessarily navigational performance. Together this work suggests that prevailing adaptive hypotheses provide an incomplete explanation of sex differences in spatial abilities.

    View details for DOI 10.7554/eLife.80483

    View details for PubMedID 36377473

  • Long distance homing in the cane toad (Rhinella marina) in its native range. The Journal of experimental biology Shaykevich, D. A., Pasukonis, A., O'Connell, L. A. 1800


    Many animals exhibit complex navigation over different scales and environments. Navigation studies in amphibians have largely focused on species with life histories that require accurate spatial movements, such as territorial poison frogs and migratory pond-breeding amphibians that show fidelity to mating sites. However, other amphibian species have remained relatively understudied, leaving open the possibility that well-developed navigational abilities are widespread. Here, we measured short-term space use in non-territorial, non-migratory cane toads (Rhinella marina) in their native range in French Guiana. After establishing site fidelity, we tested their ability to return home following translocations of 500 and 1000 meters. Toads were able to travel in straight trajectories back to home areas, suggesting navigational abilities similar to those observed in amphibians with more complex spatial behavior. These observations break with the current paradigm of amphibian navigation and suggest that navigational abilities may be widely shared among amphibians.

    View details for DOI 10.1242/jeb.243048

    View details for PubMedID 34940881