AUG 07, 2017 08:35 AM PDT

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

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
SEP 17, 2019
Plants & Animals
SEP 17, 2019
Watch This Dive Team Collect a Blood Sample From a Captive Whale Shark
Getting a blood sample from a massive whale shark can be particularly challenging and would typically require administering an anesthetic to put the animal...
SEP 17, 2019
Plants & Animals
SEP 17, 2019
Watch Georgia Aquarium Staff Administer an Ultrasound to a Female Seal
Halo is a mature adult female harbor seal that got mixed in with mature adult males of the same species at Georgia Aquarium. With that in mind, it should c...
SEP 17, 2019
Cancer
SEP 17, 2019
What zebra fish tell us about cancer tumors
New research published in PNAS from researchers at Duke University highlights a surprising finding: zebrafish have the ability to shed the lining of their ...
SEP 17, 2019
Plants & Animals
SEP 17, 2019
Crows Are Incredibly Smart Birds
Many people don’t realize it, but animals can be particularly intelligent when it comes to matters of problem-solving. In this video, we see a lone c...
SEP 17, 2019
Health & Medicine
SEP 17, 2019
Cannabis Holds Promise in Aiding PTSD
Cannabinoids, the active components of the cannabis plant, may have the potential to treat PTSD by reducing nightmares and aiding poor sleep habits. Howeve...
SEP 17, 2019
Earth & The Environment
SEP 17, 2019
"The Blob" is Back
Five years ago, a phenomenon dubbed “the blob” caused turmoil along the West Coast of the Pacific Ocean. No, it wasn’t an invader from sp...
Loading Comments...