How and why some frogs evolved extreme heads


Anotheca spinosa, a tree frog from Central America, likely uses the bony spikes on its skull as a defense against predators. Credit: Edward Stanley/Florida Museum

Many frogs look like a water balloon with legs, but don’t be fooled. Beneath slick skin, some species sport spines, spikes and other skeletal secrets.

While most frogs share a simple skull shape with a smooth surface, others have evolved fancier features, such as faux fangs, elaborate crests, helmet-like fortification and venom-delivering spikes. A new study is the first to take a close look at the evolution and function of these armored frog skulls.
Florida Museum of Natural History researchers used 3-D data to study skull shape in 158 species representing all living frog families. Radically shaped skulls were often covered in intricate patterns of grooves, ridges and pits formed by extra layers of bone. The…



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