Frogs Took Leap Forward After Meteor Wiped Out Dinosaurs
05 / 07 / 2017, Sci-Tech
The global catastrophe that killed off dinosaurs was good news for frogs, scientists have discovered. According to new research, 88% of frog species living today owe their existence to the meteor impact that wiped out most terrestrial life 66 million years ago.
Almost nine out of 10 of the amphibian species descended from just three lineages that survived the mass extinction.
They each jumped forward precisely at the junction of the Cretaceous and Paleogene periods -- formerly known as the KT boundary -- when the disaster happened.
Scientists believe the first survivors may have escaped the meteor strike by burrowing underground.
After the meteor, arboreal tree frogs led the way by exploiting newly available habitat niches.
Research had previously suggested that the evolution of frogs started 35 million years earlier and had nothing to do with the dinosaur apocalypse.
Study co-author Professor David Hillis, from the University of Texas at Austin, US, said: "We know that the mass extinction event wiped out most of the dinosaurs, except for a few bird species, which then exploded in diversity and became one of the dominant groups of land animals.
"As we look at more and more groups of life, we see the same pattern, and that turns out to be the case for frogs as well."
Professor David Wake, from the University of California at Berkeley, said a major factor in early frog evolution was the way the creatures adapted to living in trees as flowering plants spread across the planet.
He said: "Frogs started becoming arboreal. It was the arboreality that led to the great radiation in South America in particular."
In their report published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences publication, the researchers said trees are an ideal habitat for frogs not only because they provide a refuge from terrestrial predators, but also leaf cover on...