Overview

Brief Summary

Amphibians are vertebrates of the taxonomic class Amphibia including animals such as frogs and toads (order Anura), salamanders (order Caudata), and caecilians (order Gymnophiona). Thought of as cold-blooded, amphibians are ectotherms, meaning they are unable to regulate their own body temperature independently of the temperature of their surroundings. Amphibians are generally small with thin skin permeable to air and water. With few exceptions, amphibians do not actively care for their young. In general, amphibian reproduction strategy consists of egg-laying and external fertilization of a large number of eggs in a moist or fully aquatic environment. Fertilized eggs develop into amphibian larvae that live part of their lives dependent on an aquatic environment requiring gills and specialized feeding habits. Following a pattern of development unique to amphibians, amphibian larvae undergo marked changes and metamorphose into a terrestrial form that lives on land. Typically, this metamorphosis is demonstrated by loss of gills, changes in overall appearance, and changes in diet.Amphibians live in diverse habitats, often in large numbers, and play several important ecological roles. As consumers, amphibians help regulate populations of the organisms they consume, chiefly invertebrates. As prey items, amphibians are consumed by a variety of larger predators such as reptiles, birds, mammals, fish, predatory invertebrates, and other amphibians. When consumed by larger predators, amphibians transfer the energy and nutrients from amphibian prey items such as small invertebrates to larger predators.

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Introduction

Salientia includes frogs and toads, and their close fossil relatives. The closest living relatives of the Salientia are the other amphibians, salamanders and caecilians. Frogs outnumber both of these groups substantially; as of May 2007, there are 172 living species of caecilians, 557 living salamanders, and 5424 living species of frogs.

The earliest known salientian is †Triadobatrachus massinoti, from the Early Triassic of Madagascar. This "proto-frog" is about 250 million years old. "Proto-frog" refers to the fact that it had not yet quite evolved the combination of features that are typically associated with frogs. For more information see †Triadobatrachus massinoti.

The earliest "true" frogs include †Prosalirus bitis and †Vieraella herbsti, from the Early Jurassic era. Thus, perfectly respectable frogs were around just before most of the major groups of dinosaurs had appeared. †Notobatrachus degiustoi from the Middle Jurassic is just a bit younger, about 155-170 million years old.

There are many distinctive features of living frogs. Frogs have at most nine vertebrae in front of the sacrum, and the three or four posterior to the sacrum are fused into a rod called the urostyle. In contrast, caecilians and salamanders have many more vertebrae and they do not have a urostyle. Frogs do not possess tails in the adult stage ("Anura" means without tail), as caecilians and salamanders do. Frogs also have a radioulna, which represents a fused radius and ulna (bones of the forearm), and a tibiofibula, the fused tibia and fibula (bones of the shank). The tibiale and fibulare (ankle bones; also called astragalus and calcaneum) of frogs are greatly elongate. Thus there is effectively an additional lever system that frogs can utilize in jumping. Indeed, the origin of saltation and its morphological correlates (lack of a tail, reduction in vertebrae, elongation of propulsive segments of the body) seems to be one of the features that clearly sets frogs apart from other major vertebrate groups (Gans and Parsons, 1966).

In addition to morphological distinctions, frogs also have a distinctive life phase known as the tadpole, which is a highly specialized "eating machine." Salamanders and caecilians have a larval form, but in neither does the larva possess the many specializations (such as the ceratohyal pump) that frog tadpoles have (Wassersug, 1974). Even the most basal living frogs have the beginnings of a unique mechanism of tongue projection (Nishikawa and Cannatella, 1991; Nishikawa and Roth, 1991) that is associated with extreme modification of the gill arches into a fused hyobranchial plate.

Although there is no scientific distinction between "frogs" and "toads", frogs are typically smooth-skinned, have long hind limbs for leaping, and live in water, while toads have warty, drier skin, with shorter hind limbs for hopping, and live on land (Halliday and Adler, 1986).

With so many species of frogs and toads, it is not surprising that they inhabit a wide variety of habitats. Habitat types range from arid desert regions to mountainous regions to swamps to tropical rainforests.

Temperature and water regulation are critical to frogs and toads, and amphibians in general. Being ectotherms, frogs and toads are reliant on the ambient temperature for body temperature regulation. In the winter months, frogs in temperate zones cannot remain active and must enter into a state of torpor, or extremely reduced activity. In the contrasting summer months, frogs can avoid the extreme heat by remaining underground in daylight, and being active at night (Halliday and Adler, 1986).

Salientians are also susceptible to the loss of body water due to extremely hot or dry conditions. Moisture regulation in frogs varies with their habitat. Those in temperate climates maintain moist skin to aid in evaporative cooling. As external air passes over the moist skin, the frog's body temperature is lowered. Additionally, permeable skin allows the frog the ability to absorb water simply by jumping into a pond or sitting in a puddle. Frogs in arid regions, on the other hand, have different ways of regulating body water. Their skin is often impermeable to water to prevent rapid evaporation and dehydration. Instead, they may cover their bodies with a thick mucus, or burrow to avoid the heat altogether.

Breeding in frogs is triggered by environmental cues such as temperature change and rainfall. During the breeding season (which varies with each species) hundreds or thousands of frogs may be seen in a congregation. Male frogs attract mates by calling; often many males call in chorus. Calling usually occurs near a body of water, such as a pond, where the eggs can be laid and fertilized. Egg masses may be laid in long chains or in large clumps. Parental care in frogs and toads is variable; some species lay many smaller eggs and have little parental care, while others lay a few larger eggs and remain with them until tadpoles or froglets develop.

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Comprehensive Description

Description of Amphibia

The amphibia include toads, frogs, caecilians, and salamanders. They are cold-blooded tetrapods, unlike most other tetrapods (they do not form an amnion). Most amphibian undergo metamorphosis from a juvenile water-breathing form (tadpoe) to an adult air-breathing form, but some retain the juvenile water-breathing form throughout life. Mudpuppies, for example, retain juvenile gills in adulthood. The three modern orders of amphibia: Anura (frogs and toads); Caudata (salamanders and newts); and Gymnophiona (caecilians, limbless amphibians that resemble snakes). There are about 6,500 species. Many amphibians lay their eggs in water. Amphibia superficially resembles reptiles, but reptiles are amniotes, and have surface scales. In the lasdt 20 or 30 years, there has been a dramatic decline in amphibian populations around the globe. Many species are now threatened or extinct. The earliest amphibia evolved in the Devonian period from lobe-finned fish that used their strong, bony fins to venture onto dry land. They were the top predators in the Carboniferous and Permian periods, but they later faced competition from their descendants, the reptiles, and many lineages were wiped out during the Permian–Triassic extinction. One group, the metoposaurs, remained important predators during the Triassic, but as the world became drier during the Early Jurassic they died out, leaving a handful of relict temnospondyls like Koolasuchus and the Lissamphibia.
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David

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Herpetological Fauna of Texas

The Salientia clade includes all frogs and toads from around the world. For a list of only the frog species found in Texas, as well as other amphibians and reptiles, see Herps of Texas

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Distribution

Geographic Distribution

The global distribution of Salientia is indicated in red.

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Physical Description

Morphology

Sexual Dimorphism

Females generally larger than males but males usually larger in species with male-male combat or paternal care.
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Ecology

Associations

Animal / dung saprobe
Basidiobolus ranarum is saprobic in/on dung or excretions of dung of Amphibia

Animal / parasite / ectoparasite / blood sucker
Piscicola geometra sucks the blood of Amphibia

Animal / pathogen
Saprolegnia ferax infects Amphibia

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Known predators

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Evolution and Systematics

Evolution

Discussion of Phylogenetic Relationships

View Salientia Tree

The name Salientia generally has referred to †Triadobatrachus + Anura (Milner, 1988). Ford and Cannatella (1993) defined it as a stem-based name for amphibians that are more closely related to Anura than to Caudata or Gymnophiona. Synapomorphies that unite all of the currently known taxa in Salientia include 14 presacral vertebrae, elongate and anteriorly directed ilium, presence of a frontoparietal, and a toothless dentary (Milner, 1988). To these, Trueb and Cloutier (1991) added the absence of a lacrimal and unicapitate ribs as other unique synapomorphies, and four other synapomorphies that showed homoplasy among closely related dissorophoid temnospondyls.

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD) Stats
Specimen Records: 31996
Specimens with Sequences: 36079
Specimens with Barcodes: 23625
Species: 2783
Species With Barcodes: 2535
Public Records: 11563
Public Species: 911
Public BINs: 2177
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Barcode data

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