A comprehensive new amphibian family tree revises the frog’s evolutionary timeline


Vietnamese moss frog (Theloderma corticale)

A groundbreaking study presents the most comprehensive evolutionary tree of frogs, which includes 5,242 species. The research proposes a revised timeline of frog evolution and introduces innovative programs that provide insights and methodologies applicable to other organisms. This photo shows a Vietnamese mossy frog (squamous thyloderma).

The most detailed and comprehensive family tree to date for frogs has been generated using molecular data.

Researchers, including Geoff Streicher, Senior Curator of Amphibians and Reptiles at London’s Natural History Museum, have revealed the most comprehensive evolutionary tree of frogs (Anuran amphibians) to date. This all-encompassing lineage is based on hundreds of genetic markers and a staggering 5,242 frogs classifyis set to change our understanding of these wonderful creatures.

Shift in the evolutionary timeline

The new research has also changed the possible start date for when live frogs first began evolving. According to Jeff Streicher, lead author of the paper, “Previously, it was thought that the group began splitting into the thousands of species we see today around 210 or 220 million years ago. Our new analysis instead suggests that this date was around 180 million years ago.” The discovery that frogs are much younger means they diversified into thousands of species more quickly than previously thought.

Frogs, with their varied natural histories, have always been of interest to biologists and nature lovers alike. However, previous attempts to create universal strains of these creatures have been limited by the types of genetic data used.

methodological progression in the study

In this study, the researchers addressed these limitations by developing an expanded family tree that combined genetic data from phylogenetic studies with hundreds of genetic markers that included only a few species, and data from hundreds of small-scale studies of frogs that occasionally used only one or more species. . Two signs but collectively they contained thousands of species. This new approach allowed them to include 5,242 frog species, which is a significant increase of 71% over previous family trees.

“Phylogenetic trees are the starting point for most studies looking at a particular group of animals, so it’s important to be as accurate and detailed as possible,” Jeff Streicher says.

“Here we not only augmented the data on which the frog phylogenetic tree relies, but we also developed new software to help improve that data,” adds Dan Burtek, lead author.

Software innovations and future applications

Researchers have developed software to make it easier to compare genes that develop significant differences between species.

says John J. “Previous studies were wary of combining phylogenetic datasets with hundreds of markers and data from many smaller studies with fewer markers,” said Wiens, senior author and professor at the University of Arizona. We have shown that this is not only possible, but also leads to an improved tree at the family level that can include thousands of species. This same approach can be applied to any group of organisms.

Conclusion and future implications

The study represents a major leap forward in our understanding of frog evolution and provides a valuable resource for researchers and offers new avenues for studying anuran amphibians. As the scientific community continues to explore and expand our knowledge of these fascinating creatures, this universal lineage serves as a foundation for future discoveries.

Reference: “Frog Phylum: A Chronologically Normalized Species-Level Tree Based on Hundreds of Sites and 5,242 Species” by Daniel M. Burtek, Jeffrey W. Streicher, and John J. Wiens, Aug. 25, 2023, Available Here. Molecular genetics and evolution.
doi: 10.1016/j.ympev.2023.107907

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