Frogs are amphibians in the order Anura.
Until the discovery of the Early Permian Gerobatrachus hottoni, a stem-batrachian with many salamander-like characteristics, the earliest known proto-frog was Triadobatrachus massinoti, from the 250 million year old early Triassic of Madagascar. The skull is frog-like, being broad with large eye sockets, but the fossil has features diverging from modern amphibia. These include a different ilium, a longer body with more vertebrae, and separate vertebrae in its tail (whereas in modern frogs, the tail vertebrae are fused, and known as the urostyle or coccyx). The tibia and fibula bones are unfused and separate, making it probable Triadobatrachus was not an efficient leaper.
Another fossil frog, Prosalirus bitis, was discovered in 1995. The remains were recovered from Arizona's Kayenta Formation, which dates back to the Early Jurassic epoch, somewhat younger than Triadobatrachus. Like Triadobatrachus, Prosalirus did not have greatly enlarged legs, but had the typical three-pronged pelvic structure. Unlike Triadobatrachus, Prosalirus had already lost nearly all of its tail and was well adapted for jumping.
The earliest true frog is Vieraella herbsti, from the early Jurassic (188–213 million years ago). It is known only from the dorsal and ventral impressions of a single animal and was estimated to be 33 mm (1.3 in) from snout to vent. Notobatrachus degiustoi from the Middle Jurassic is slightly younger, about 155–170 million years old. It is likely the evolution of modern Anura was completed by the Jurassic period. The main evolutionary changes involved the shortening of the body and the loss of the tail.
The earliest full fossil record of a modern frog is of sanyanlichan, which lived 125 million years ago and had all modern frog features, but bore 9 presacral vertebrae instead of the 8 of modern frogs.
- ^ Cannatella, David (1995). "Triadobatrachus massinoti". Tree of Life. http://www.tolweb.org/Triadobatrachus_massinoti/16962. Retrieved on 2008-06-26.
- ^ Weishampel, David B; et al (2004). "Dinosaur distribution (Early Jurassic, North America)." In: Weishampel, David B.; Dodson, Peter; and Osmólska, Halszka (eds.): The Dinosauria, 2nd, Berkeley: University of California Press. Pp. 530-532. ISBN 0-520-24209-2.
- ^ Foster, J. (2007). "Anura (Frogs)." Jurassic West: The Dinosaurs of the Morrison Formation and Their World. Indiana University Press. pp. 135-136.
- ^ "China Yields East Asia's Earliest Fossilized Frog". People's Daily. 2001-11-20. http://english.peopledaily.com.cn/200111/20/eng20011120_84925.shtml. Retrieved on 2008-06-26.
- ^ "Chinese frog discovery sheds light on amphibians' evolution". The Dhamurian Society (Australian Broadcasting Company). 2001-11-20. http://www.dhamurian.org.au/zoology/chinesefrog.html. Retrieved on 2008-06-26.