The Complex Evolutionary History of the Tympanic Middle Ear in Frogs and Toads (Anura)
Nature Publishing Group
Most anurans possess a tympanic middle ear (TME) that transmits sound waves to the inner ear; however, numerous species lack some or all TME components. To understand the evolution of these structures, we undertook a comprehensive assessment of their occurrence across anurans and performed ancestral character state reconstructions. Our analysis indicates that the TME was completely lost at least 38 independent times in Anura. The inferred evolutionary history of the TME is exceptionally complex in true toads (Bufonidae), where it was lost in the most recent common ancestor, preceding a radiation of >150 earless species. Following that initial loss, independent regains of some or all TME structures were inferred within two minor clades and in a radiation of >400 species. The reappearance of the TME in the latter clade was followed by at least 10 losses of the entire TME. The many losses and gains of the TME in anurans is unparalleled among tetrapods. Our results show that anurans and especially bufonid toads, are an excellent model to study the behavioural correlates of earlessness, extratympanic sound pathways and the genetic and developmental mechanisms that underlie the morphogenesis of TME structures.
Pereyra, M.O.†, Womack, M.C.†, Barrionuevo, J.S., Blotto, B.L., Baldo, D., Targino, M., ... and Grant, T. 2016. The complex evolutionary history of the tympanic middle ear in frogs and toads (Anura). Scientific Reports, 6, 34130.