Two conserved vocal central pattern generators broadly tuned for fast and slow rates generate species-specific vocalizations in Xenopus clawed frogs

  1. Ayako Yamaguchi  Is a corresponding author
  2. Manon Peltier
  1. University of Utah, United States


Across phyla, species-specific vocalizations are used by males to attract females. Functional analyses of the neural circuitry underlying behavior have been challenging, particularly in vertebrates. However, using an ex vivo brain preparation that produces fictive vocalizations, we previously identified anatomically distinct fast and slow central pattern generators (CPGs) that drive the fast and slow clicks of male courtship calls in male African clawed frogs, Xenopus laevis. To gain insight into the evolution of neural circuits underlying species-specific courtship calls, we extended this approach to four additional species, X. amieti, X. cliivi, X. petersii, and X. tropicalis, by developing ex vivo brain preparation from which fictive vocalizations are elicited in response to a chemical or electrical stimulus. We found that even though the courtship calls of different Xenopus species vary in their click rates and duration, the CPGs used to generate clicks are conserved across species. The fast CPGs found in male X. laevis, which critically rely on reciprocal connections between the parabrachial nucleus and the nucleus ambiguus, are conserved among species that produce fast clicks. Similarly, the slow CPGs found in the caudal brainstem of male X. laevis are shared among species that produce slow clicks. In addition, our results suggest that testosterone plays a role in organizing fast CPGs in fast-click species, but it does not appear to have the same effect in slow-click species. Moreover, we demonstrate that, unlike other vestigial neural circuits that remain latent, fast CPGs are not inherited by all species. Instead, they are possessed only by the species that produce fast clicks. The results suggest that species-specific calls of the genus Xenopus have evolved by utilizing conserved slow and/or fast CPGs inherited by each species. Fast and slow CPGs are broadly tuned to generate fast or slow clicks, and the organization of the former appears to be regulated by testosterone in a species-specific manner.

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Author details

  1. Ayako Yamaguchi

    School of Biological Science, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, United States
    For correspondence
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0002-5653-1041
  2. Manon Peltier

    School of Biological Science, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, United States
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.


National Science Foundation (IOS 1934386)

  • Ayako Yamaguchi

The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.


Animal experimentation: This study was performed in strict accordance with the recommendation in the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals of the National Institute of Health. All the animals were handled according to approved institutional animal care and use committee (IACUC) protocols (#00001989) of the University of Utah. The protocol was approved by the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee at the University of Utah and complied with National Institute of Health guidelines. All surgery was performed under tricaine methanesulfonate (MS-222) anesthesia, and every effort was made to minimize suffering.

Reviewing Editor

  1. Gáspár Jékely, Heidelberg University, Germany

Publication history

  1. Received: January 19, 2023
  2. Preprint posted: January 28, 2023 (view preprint)
  3. Accepted: May 12, 2023
  4. Accepted Manuscript published: May 15, 2023 (version 1)


© 2023, Yamaguchi & Peltier

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.


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  1. Ayako Yamaguchi
  2. Manon Peltier
Two conserved vocal central pattern generators broadly tuned for fast and slow rates generate species-specific vocalizations in Xenopus clawed frogs
eLife 12:e86299.

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