Frog origins: inferences based on ancestral reconstructions of locomotor performance and anatomy
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Frogs are the most species-rich and ecologically diverse group of amphibians and are characterized by a unique body plan including long legs, elongated ilia, and fused caudal vertebrae. Stem anurans such as Triadobatrachus or Czatkobatrachus have been suggested to have used jumping or hopping as part of their locomotor repertoire based on their anatomy. The earliest known true frog, Prosalirus bitis was suggested to have been a proficient jumper. However, data on jumping performance in frogs have never been used to attempt reconstruction of ancestral features at the base of the radiation. Here we provide data on jumping performance (forces and acceleration) in 20 species of extant frogs including representatives of most of the early radiating clades. We next use ancestral character value inferences to assess ancestral features. Our analyses suggest that frog ancestors were of small to medium size, had relatively short limbs, produced rather low jump forces, yet were capable of relatively high acceleration. Given the short limbs and low forces, the unique frog bauplan with a reduced vertebral column and a mobile ilio-sacral joint may not have been an adaptation for powerful jumping.
- RESEARCH: Measey, J