Disentangling Intrinsic and Extrinsic Factors Underlying Anuran Postcranial Skeleton Evolution

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Journal/Book Title/Conference

Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology Meeting


Austin, TX

Publication Date



Many extrinsic factors (habitat, biotic interactions, etc.) and intrinsic factors (phylogenetic history, size constraints, etc.) affect the morphological evolution of a lineage, making it difficult to disentangle the effects of any particular factor on trait evolution. Frogs and toads (anurans) present a unique opportunity for studying how intrinsic and extrinsic factors contribute to morphological and functional diversity because they are specious (over 7,000 species), distributed worldwide, vary in body size, and have frequently and independently invaded various microhabitats (aquatic, arboreal, terrestrial, etc.). Using microCT data from over 250 species across all families, we first correlate postcranial skeleton evolution with phylogeny, body size, and microhabitat at a macroevolutionary scale spanning 200 million years. We then use existing performance data to pinpoint skeletal features affecting locomotion and other functions. Finally, we lay out hypotheses to be tested via developmental studies, mechanical modeling, and performance data that will inform why skeletal evolution varies among clades and how skeletal variation promotes functional and ecological diversification in anurans.

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