Evolution of 'true frogs' defies long-held expectations of science

ScienceDaily | 9/13/2017 | Staff
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Apparently, this isn't the story of "true frogs." The frog family scientists call Ranidae are found nearly everywhere in the world, and their family includes familiar amphibians like the American Bullfrog and the European common frog.

New research from the University of Kansas appearing in Royal Society Biology Letters shows, in contrast to expectations, "the rapid global range expansion of true frogs was not associated with increased net-diversification."

Frogs - Dispersal - World - Author - Chan

"First, we had to identify where these true frogs came from and when they started their dispersal all over the world," said lead author Chan Kin Onn, a doctoral student at KU's Biodiversity Institute. "We found a distinct pattern. The origin of these frogs was Indochina -- on the map today, it's most of mainland Asia, including Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Burma. True frogs dispersed throughout every continent except Antarctica from there. That's not a new idea. But we found that a lot of this dispersal happened during a short period of time -- it was during the late Eocene, about 40 million years ago. That hadn't really been identified, until now."

Next, Chan and co-author Rafe Brown, curator-in-charge of the KU Biodiversity Institute's Herpetology Division, looked to see if this rapid dispersal of true frogs worldwide triggered a matching eruption of speciation.

Expectation - Chan - Habitat - Resources - Competition

"That was our expectation," Chan said. "We thought they'd take off into all this new habitat and resources, with no competition -- and boom, you'd have a lot of new species. But we found the exact opposite was true. In most of the groups, nothing happened. There was no increase in speciation. In one of the groups, diversification significantly slowed down. That was the reverse of what was expected."

To establish the actual timing of true frogs' diversification, Chan and Brown performed phylogenetic analysis of 402 genetic samples obtained from an online database called...
(Excerpt) Read more at: ScienceDaily
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