To best understand the present, we must better understand our past. This concept applies to many facets of life including natural history. Today we will take a look at the past.
Researchers often explore how a species of interest evolved to its current form or sometimes to understand what caused its demise. We will review one of each today from papers recently published.
First, let’s discuss frogs’ teeth. Teeth are probably not something you think about when you consider the frog. Until this post, I didn’t think frogs had teeth at all! However, some have pairs of fang-like teeth. Others have rows of tiny teeth and still others are completely toothless. Out of more than 7,000 frog species, only one has a set of true upper and lower dentures.
A team at the Florida Museum of Natural History studied every genus of amphibians to discover that frogs have lost their teeth at least 20 times during their evolution. Over millions of years, they may have re-introduced teeth at some points and lost them again. Their diet likely influenced whether teeth were needed or not. When frogs consume mostly tiny insects, their specialized tongue seems to be sufficient.
You can learn more at the Museum’s webpage: https://www.floridamuseum.ufl.edu/science/frogs-have-lost-teeth-more-than-20-times/
Or read the scientific publication here: https://doi.org/10.7554/eLife.66926
Next, we will step further back in time. Really far back. Let’s explore the Early Triassic period. That’s approximately 250 million years ago. During this time, the Antarctic had a temperate climate.
The first animals to arrive in Antarctica were amphibians and reptiles.
Recently, a team from the University of Washington, pressing on with research at home because of the pandemic, recognized fossils of Micropholis stowi, a salamander-sized amphibian from this early period. This particular fossil originated in Antarctica and was gathered during a 2017-2018 collection trip to the Transantarctic Mountains. Fossil records on this continent are unusual. Previously, the species had only been found in South Africa.
Who would have expected to find an amphibian on Antarctica? You never know!
You can read more about the research here: https://www.washington.edu/news/2021/05/21/pandemic-paleontology/