Use artificial fertilization in captive breeding

How is the evidence assessed?
  • Effectiveness
  • Certainty
  • Harms

Study locations

Key messages

  • Three replicated studies (including two randomized studies) in Australia and the USA found that the success of artificial fertilization depended on the type and number of doses of hormones used to stimulate egg production. One replicated study in Australia found that 55% of eggs were fertilized artificially, but soon died.


About key messages

Key messages provide a descriptive index to studies we have found that test this intervention.

Studies are not directly comparable or of equal value. When making decisions based on this evidence, you should consider factors such as study size, study design, reported metrics and relevance of the study to your situation, rather than simply counting the number of studies that support a particular interpretation.

Supporting evidence from individual studies

  1. A randomized, replicated study in 2005 of captive Fowler toads Bufo fowleri in the USA (Browne et al. 2006a) found that the proportion of eggs fertilized artificially was affected by hormone treatment used to stimulate egg production. Only treatments with lutenizing hormone-releasing hormone-a (LHRHa; 20 μg or more) plus another hormone resulted in fertilized eggs. The proportion of fertilized eggs was significantly higher following treatment with progesterone (5 mg) and 60 μg LHRHa (73%) than progesterone with 20 μg LHRHa and dopamine-2 receptor antagonist pimozide (35%) or progesterone with 60 μg LHRHa, pimozide and human chorionic gonadotrophin (500 IU; 20%). Following treatment with LHRHa but no progesterone only one toad produced eggs, of which 34% became fertilized. Second doses of 60 μg LHRHa or 500 IU human chorionic gonadotrophin given 24 or 48 hours after initial doses resulted in low egg numbers and fertilization. Wild-caught toads were housed in 50 x 40 x 10 cm tanks. Females were randomly assigned to treatments with seven females/treatment. Treatments were given in 100 μl of saline. Eggs were fertilized in a dish with spermic urine.

    Study and other actions tested
  2. A replicated study in 2005 of captive Wyoming toad Bufo baxteri in the USA (Browne et al. 2006b) found that the proportion of eggs that became fertilized artificially was similar following one or two priming dose of hormones, but two priming doses resulted in higher numbers of viable eggs. Females given two priming doses produced significantly more tadpoles than those given one priming dose (2,300 vs 84). Toads were housed in 45 l tanks. Ten females were primed with 500 IU human chorionic gonadotrophin and 4 µg lutenizing hormone-releasing hormone (LHRHa). After 72 hours, the 10 females and an additional 10 females were given 100 IU human chorionic gonadotrophin and 0.8 µg LHRHa, followed 96 hours later by 500 IU human chorionic gonadotrophin and 4 µg LHRHa. Eggs produced during the fertile period (12–18 hours after hormone treatment) were fertilized in a dish with spermic urine.

    Study and other actions tested
  3. A replicated study in 2009 of southern corroboree frogs Pseudophryne corroboree at Monash University, Australia (Byrne & Silla 2010) found that artificial fertilization resulted in 55% of eggs being fertilized, but embryos failed prior to gastrulation. Fertilization and the stage that the embryo failed varied between and within females. Hormone treatment was used to induce sperm and egg release. Artificial fertilization was attempted by combining spermic urine (1.1–2.9 x 102) with eggs from five females in a dilute solution of simplified amphibian Ringer solution at 10°C. Embryonic development was checked every 6–12 hours for seven days.

    Study and other actions tested
  4. A randomized, replicated study in 2009 of captive Gϋnther’s toadlets Pseudophryne guentheri in Western Australia (Silla 2011) found that hormone treatment with one priming injection resulted in high artificial fertilization rates (91–100%), whereas eggs with zero or two priming treatments failed to fertilize. Twenty-four females were randomly assigned to three treatments: a single dose of 2 μ/g lutenizing hormone-releasing hormone-a in simplified amphibian Ringer solution, or a dose preceded by one or two priming injections of 0.4 μ/g lutenizing hormone-releasing hormone (one hour apart). Twenty eggs/female were fertilized with sperm from macerated testis of wild caught males in simplified amphibian Ringer solution.

    Study and other actions tested
Please cite as:

Smith, R.K., Meredith, H. & Sutherland, W.J. (2020) Amphibian Conservation. Pages 9-64 in: W.J. Sutherland, L.V. Dicks, S.O. Petrovan & R.K. Smith (eds) What Works in Conservation 2020. Open Book Publishers, Cambridge, UK.

Where has this evidence come from?

List of journals searched by synopsis

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Amphibian Conservation

This Action forms part of the Action Synopsis:

Amphibian Conservation
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What Works in Conservation provides expert assessments of the effectiveness of actions, based on summarised evidence, in synopses. Subjects covered so far include amphibians, birds, mammals, forests, peatland and control of freshwater invasive species. More are in progress.

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