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The Boston Globe


Tadpoles ‘see’ with eyes on their tails in Tufts experiment

It sounds, at first, like a plot twist from a zany movie about a mad scientist: What if an eye were transplanted onto a tadpole’s tail? Would the frog-in-the-making be merely a laboratory freak -- a kind of Mr. Potato Head of science? Or would the tadpole actually be able to see out of its backside?

Now, a pair of serious Tufts University biologists have carefully done the experiment, demonstrating for the first time that a blind tadpole can see with an eye bulging from its tail. Researchers showed the eye can detect changes in colored light and guide the tadpole’s behavior, even though the nerves from its eye connect only to the spinal cord. Remarkably, that means signals sent from the displaced eye through the central nervous system were correctly interpreted by the brain.

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