Evolution of the Unique Anuran Pelvic and Hind Limb Skeleton in Relation to Microhabitat, Locomotor Mode, and Jump Performance

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Integrative & Comparative Biology






Oxford University Press

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Anurans (frogs and toads) have a unique pelvic and hind limb skeleton among tetrapods. Although their distinct body plan is primarily associated with saltation, anuran species vary in their primary locomotor mode (e.g., walkers, hoppers, jumpers, and swimmers) and are found in a wide array of microhabitats (e.g., burrowing, terrestrial, arboreal, and aquatic) with varying functional demands. Given their largely conserved body plan, morphological adaptation to these diverse niches likely results from more fine-scale morphological change. Our study determines how shape differences in Anura’s unique pelvic and hind limb skeletal structures vary with microhabitat, locomotor mode, and jumping ability. Using microCT scans of preserved specimens from museum collections, we added 3D landmarks to the pelvic and hind limb skeleton of 230 anuran species. In addition, we compiled microhabitat and locomotor data from the literature for these species that span 52 of the 55 families of frogs and ∼210 million years of anuran evolution. Using this robust dataset, we examine the relationship between pelvic and hind limb morphology and phylogenetic history, allometry, microhabitat, and locomotor mode. We find pelvic and hind limb changes associated with shifts in microhabitat (“ecomorphs”) and locomotor mode (“locomorphs”) and directly relate those morphological changes to the jumping ability of individual species. We also reveal how individual bones vary in evolutionary rate and their association with phylogeny, body size, microhabitat, and locomotor mode. Our findings uncover previously undocumented morphological variation related to anuran ecological and locomotor diversification and link that variation to differences in jumping ability among species.

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