Evolution of morphology and locomotor performance in anurans: relationships with microhabitat diversification

J. M. Citadini, R. Brandt, C. R. Williams, F. R. Gomes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


The relationships between morphology, performance, behavior and ecology provide evidence for multiple and complex phenotypic adaptations. The anuran body plan, for example, is evolutionarily conserved and shows clear specializations to jumping performance back at least to the early Jurassic. However, there are instances of more recent adaptation to habit diversity in the post-cranial skeleton, including relative limb length. The present study tested adaptive models of morphological evolution in anurans associated with the diversity of microhabitat use (semi-aquatic arboreal, fossorial, torrent, and terrestrial) in species of anuran amphibians from Brazil and Australia. We use phylogenetic comparative methods to determine which evolutionary models, including Brownian motion (BM) and Ornstein-Uhlenbeck (OU) are consistent with morphological variation observed across anuran species. Furthermore, this study investigated the relationship of maximum distance jumped as a function of components of morphological variables and microhabitat use. We found there are multiple optima of limb lengths associated to different microhabitats with a trend of increasing hindlimbs in torrent, arboreal, semi-aquatic whereas fossorial and terrestrial species evolve toward optima with shorter hindlimbs. Moreover, arboreal, semi-aquatic and torrent anurans have higher jumping performance and longer hindlimbs, when compared to terrestrial and fossorial species. We corroborate the hypothesis that evolutionary modifications of overall limb morphology have been important in the diversification of locomotor performance along the anuran phylogeny. Such evolutionary changes converged in different phylogenetic groups adapted to similar microhabitat use in two different zoogeographical regions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)371-381
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Evolutionary Biology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished or Issued - Mar 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • amphibian
  • ecomorphology
  • frogs
  • jumping performance
  • phylogenetic comparative method

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics

Cite this