In the current study, 5-nydroxytryptamine (5-HT) and gastrin (GAS) cells in the digestive canals of Rana chensinensis
tadpoles at different developmental stages were investigated by immunohistochemistry. Results showed that the 5-HT cells were only detected in the duodenum before metamorphosis began, and were extensively distributed in the stomach, duodenum, small intestine, and rectum thereafter, with the highest counts found in the duodenum and rectum when metamorphosis was completed. The GAS cells were only distributed in the stomach and duodenum, and only rarely detected in the duodenum before metamorphosis began, but increased in the stomach during metamorphosis and showed zonal distribution in the gastric mucosa when metamorphosis was completed. Metamorphosis is a critical period for amphibians, during which structural and functional physiological adaptations are required to transition from aquatic to terrestrial environments. During metamorphosis, the differentiations of 5-HT cells in the gastrointestinal canals of tadpoles could facilitate mucus secretion regulation, improve digestive canal lubrication, and help water-shortage food digestion in terrestrial environments. Conversely, GAS cell differentiations during metamorphosis might contribute to the digestive and absorptive function transition from herbivore to omnivore.