The Gastrotheca genus of frogs carry eggs on their backs
Commonly known as "marsupial frogs", the Gastrotheca genus carry their eggs in pouches. Unlike marsupial mammals such as kangaroos however, the frogs' pouches are on their backs. The species Gastrotheca guentheri is even more unusual, being the only known frog to have teeth on its lower jaw. Dr John Wiens led a team of scientists from Stony Brook University, New York to investigate this exceptional feature. Their findings are reported in the journal Evolution.
"I combined data from fossils and DNA sequences with new statistical methods and showed that frogs lost their teeth on the lower jaw more than 230 million years ago, but that they re-appeared in G. guentheri within the past 20 million years," explains Dr Wiens.
Complex anatomical traits that are evolutionarily lost can re-evolve, even after being absent for hundreds of millions of years Dr John Wiens
In the past, scientists have argued that traits "lost" in evolution cannot return, an assertion known as Dollo's law. The return of lower jaw (mandible) teeth in G. guentheri after more than 200 million years could make evolutionary biologists reconsider this law. "The loss of mandibular teeth in the ancestor of modern frogs and their re-appearance in G. guentheri provides very strong evidence for the controversial idea that complex anatomical traits that are evolutionarily lost can re-evolve, even after being absent for hundreds of millions of years," Dr Wiens says. Dr Wiens believes that this re-evolution can be...