AUG 07, 2017 8:35 AM PDT

Dinosaur-Killing Asteroid Strike Enabled More Frog Species to Evolve, Study Shows

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard

Frogs are among some of the most diverse vertebrates on the planet, but their origins have long been cloudy. On the other hand, researchers may have just stumbled upon an important discovery that illustrates how a plethora of frog species came to be.

Tree frogs are common in South America's rainforests, but also reside in other parts of the world.

Image Credit: Saguari/Pixabay

In the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), biologists hailing from both the University of California, Berkley and Sun Yat-Sen University in China detail how the asteroid strike that wiped out the dinosaurs may have laid out a red carpet for many of today’s diverse frog species.

It’s quite the polarizing find, especially since many researchers believe that today’s frog species came into existence several million years before this asteroid ever slammed into Earth. Nevertheless, study co-author and herpetologist David Wake is convinced that the new findings are the most accurate to date.

"We think the world was quite impoverished as a result of the KT event, and when the vegetation came back, angiosperms dominated. That's when trees evolved to their full flowering," Wake explained in a statement.

"Frogs started becoming arboreal. It was the arboreality that led to the great radiation in South America in particular."

Related: This newly frog species is transparent enough that you can see all of its internal organs

Worthy of note, tree frogs became much more diverse after the asteroid strike, and they survived well because the tree’s branches and leaves helped shield the critters from predators, which made tree frogs much more adept at surviving.

But it wasn’t just the adaptation of tree-living that resulted from the event; the researchers also say that it led to more frog species being born directly from eggs, skipping the tadpole stages seen in several frog species.

"The majority of the frogs that thrive now are thriving because of direct development of eggs in terrestrial situations," Wake continued. "It is a combination of direct development and use of arboreal habitat that accounts for a great deal of the radiation."

Because genetic information on frogs is so limited, the researchers sampled up to 95 genes from the DNA of more than 150 frog species. They used their newly-collected samples together with ones previously collected from another 140 frog species, which helped them compile a family tree for the study.

Although the findings of the study contradict previous beliefs, the data reminds us about the mechanisms of evolution. Organisms are more likely to evolve for survival when the environment is dynamically changing around them, and an asteroid strike would have imposed significant changes to the frogs’ natural environment.

Scientists think that the Earth was a calm and peaceful place before the asteroid strike, so there weren't many catalysts for the evolution before the asteroid hit.

"These frogs made it through on luck, perhaps because they were either underground or could stay underground for long periods of time," Wake said.

"This certainly draws renewed attention to the positive aspects of mass extinctions: They provide ecological opportunity for new things. Just wait for the next grand extinction and life will take off again. In which direction it will take off, you don't know."

Related: Is this the first fluorescent frog species ever discovered?

Since the study only considered approximately 300 of today’s 6,700 known frog species, additional research into a greater diversity of frog species could help validate the new findings and advance our knowledge of frogs.

Source: EurekAlert

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
DEC 01, 2019
Plants & Animals
DEC 01, 2019
Polar Bear Fights Are Sometimes for Fun, Other Times to the Death
Polar bears have a reputation as being one of the top predators in the Arctic, and with that in mind, it should come as no surprise to anyone that males ca...
DEC 02, 2019
Plants & Animals
DEC 02, 2019
Do Tortoises Enjoy Being Touched by People?
Tortoises are one of nature’s most conspicuous animals – large reptiles that carry massive shells that protect their sluggish bodies from damag...
JAN 06, 2020
Cannabis Sciences
JAN 06, 2020
Psychedelics Linked to Stronger Connection to Nature
Taking psychedelic drugs, sometimes referred to as “tripping,” was recently shown to increase individuals’ “nature relatedness&rdqu...
JAN 21, 2020
Earth & The Environment
JAN 21, 2020
Scientists Assess GHG Emissions Related to Palm Oil Land Conversion
Palm oil production remains problematic in several ways, and a new study from researchers at the University of Nottingham has quantified one of these probl...
FEB 17, 2020
Plants & Animals
FEB 17, 2020
How a Spider Builds its Web
Just about everyone has seen a spider web at some point in their life, but have you ever wondered how a spider builds such a strong and perfect web? The pr...
FEB 18, 2020
Plants & Animals
FEB 18, 2020
This Wasp Turns Cockroaches Into Zombies for its Larvae
We can’t think of anyone that likes cockroaches, but one insect in particular seems to scout them out specifically for its own bizarre reasons. The e...
Loading Comments...