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Inventions of evolution: What gives frogs a face
Date:1/13/2011

This release is available in German.

"Don't be a frog!" people say in jest when someone hesitates instead of acting straight away. However to be called a frog should actually be a reason to strengthen one's self-confidence. After all frogs are real winners at least from the point of view of evolutionary biology: Nearly 6.000 species are known today. "In terms of numbers frogs are superior to all the other amphibians, and even mammals", says Professor Dr. Lennart Olsson from the Friedrich Schiller University Jena (Germany). Professor Olsson's research group for Systematic Zoology examines these animals's special secret of success. "We are interested in how the frogs developed in such a great variety and which evolutionary new development is responsible for making frogs so particularly successful", Jennifer Schmidt from Olsson's team explains.

Their evolutionary success is literally written all over the frogs' faces: Certain forms of cartilage and bone structures in the region of the head of the tadpoles are among the frogs' "innovations". These structures only to be found in frogs appear in the oral region. They enable the tadpoles of the South African claw frog (Xenopus laevis) particularly well to chip vegetarian food from the soil and from stones or to filter it from the water.

In their latest study which has been published in the science magazine "Journal of Anatomy" together with colleagues from Ulm Jennifer Schmidt analysed the central factor for the development of these morphologically distinctive features of the tadpoles. It is well known from earlier analyses, that the gene "FOXN3" plays a key role in the embryonal development of the heads of claw frogs. "It is responsible for the normal development of cartilages, bones and muscles", Jennifer Schmidt explains.

In the newly published study the 25 year old doctoral candidate and schola
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Contact: Ute Schnfelder
presse@uni-jena.de
49-364-193-1041
Friedrich-Schiller-Universitaet Jena
Source:Eurekalert  

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