In young and developing amphibians and fish the spinal cord is functional but remarkably simple compared with the adult. Is the pattern of neurons and their connections common across at least these lower vertebrates? Does this basic pattern extend into the brainstem? Could the development of simple functioning neuronal networks depend on very basic rules of connectivity and act as pioneer networks providing a substrate for the development of more complex and subtle networks. In this review of the functional neuron classes in the Xenopus laevis tadpole spinal cord up to hatching, we will consider progress and difficulties in using anatomy, transcription factor expression, physiology, and activity to define spinal neuron types. Even here it is not straightforward and is rarely possible to bring all the different strands of evidence together. But, we think we have a rather complete picture of the hatchling tadpole spinal neuron types and can define clear roles for most of them in behavior. Our present knowledge about the hatchling Xenopus spinal cord should set up many of the problems to be unraveled in the future by more developmentally oriented research.
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