A carnivorous, cannibalistic tadpole may play a role in understanding the evolution and development of digestive organs. NC State developmental biologist Nanette Nascone-Yoder, graduate student Stephanie Bloom and postdoc Cris Ledon-Rettig looked at Xenopus laevis(African clawed frog) and Lepidobatrachus laevis (Budgett's frog) tadpoles. Remarkably, five molecules caused Xenopus tadpoles to develop guts that were closer in appearance to those of the Budgett's tadpoles. Essentially, these molecules are allowing us to tease apart the processes that play a key role in gut development. Understanding how and why the gut develops different shapes and lengths to adapt to different diets and environments during evolution gives us insight into what types of processes can be altered in the context of human birth defects, another scenario in which the gut also changes its shape and function.