Captive rearing programs have been initiated to save the European common spadefoot (Pelobates fuscus), a toad species in the family of Pelobatidae, from extinction in The Netherlands. Evaluating whether this species needs ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation and/or dietary supplementation for healthy bone development is crucial for its captive management and related conservation efforts. The bone mineralization in the femurs and the thickest part of the parietal bone of the skulls of European common spadefoots (n = 51) was measured in Hounsfield units (HUs) by computed tomography. One group, containing adults (n = 8) and juveniles (n = 13), was reared at ARTIS Amsterdam Royal Zoo without UVB exposure. During their terrestrial lifetime, these specimens received a vitamin-mineral supplement. Another group, containing adults (n = 8) and juveniles (n = 10), was reared and kept in an outdoor breeding facility in Münster, Germany, with permanent access to natural UVB light, without vitamin-mineral supplementation. The HUs in the ARTIS and Münster specimens were compared with those in wild specimens (n = 12). No significant difference was found between the HUs in the femurs of both ARTIS and Münster adults and wild adults (P = 0.537; P = 0.181). The HUs in the skulls of both captive-adult groups were significantly higher than in the skulls of wild specimens (P = 0.020; P = 0.005). The HUs in the femurs of the adult ARTIS animals were significantly higher than the HUs in the femurs of the adult Münster animals (P = 0.007). The absence of UVB radiation did not seem to have a negative effect on the bone development in the terrestrial stage. This suggests that this nocturnal, subterrestrial amphibian was able to extract sufficient vitamin D3 from its diet and did not rely heavily on photobiosynthesis through UVB exposure.
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