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Temporal range: Early Triassic (?) – Holocene (Gerobatrachus is Early Permian)
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Amphibia
Clade: Lissamphibia
Haeckel, 1866


The Lissamphibia are a subclass of animals that includes all recent amphibians.

For several decades, this name has been used for a group that includes all extant amphibians, but excludes all the main groups of Paleozoic tetrapods, such as Temnospondyli, Lepospondyli, Embolomeri, and Seymouriamorpha.[1] Some authors hold that Lissamphibia is a clade, that the subclass consists of all the descendants of an ancestral lissamphibian, but others[2] hold that frogs and salamanders derive from temnospondyls, whereas caecilians derive from lepospondyls, so Lissamphibia is polyphyletic.

Living amphibians fall into one of three orders: the Anura (frogs and toads), the Caudata or Urodela (salamanders and newts), and the Gymnophiona or Apoda (the limbless caecilians). An extinct group, the family Albanerpetontidae in the order Allocaudata, was moderately successful, spanning 160 million years from the Middle Jurassic to the Early Pliocene, an interval that ended 3.6 million years ago.

Some writers have argued that the Early Permian dissorophoid Gerobatrachus hottoni is a lissamphibian.[2] If it is not,[3] the earliest known lissamphibians are Triadobatrachus and Czatkobatrachus from the Early Triassic.[4][5]


Reconstruction of Gerobatrachus, possible ancestor of salamanders and frogs

Some, if not all, lissamphibians share the following characteristics. Some of these apply to the soft body parts, hence do not appear in fossils. However, the skeletal characteristics also appear in several types of Palaeozoic amphibians:[6]

Relationships and definition[edit]

The features uniting the Lissamphibia were first noted by Ernst Haeckel, even though in Haeckel's work, Lissamphibia excluded the caecilians.[6][7] Nevertheless, Haeckel considered the caecilians to be closely related to what he called Lissamphibia (which is now called Batrachia and includes frogs and salamanders). In the early to mid 20th century, a biphyletic origin of amphibians (and thus of tetrapods in general) was favoured.[8][9] In the late 20th century, a flood of new fossil evidence mapped out in some detail the nature of the transition between the elpistostegalid fish and the early amphibians, most paleontologists no longer accept the view that amphibians have arisen twice, from two related but separate groups of fish.[10] With the single origin of amphibians being accepted by most herpetologists and paleontologists, it was assumed that Lissamphibia was monophyletic as well. However, the origin and relationships of the various lissamphibian groups both with each other and among other early tetrapods remains controversial. Not all paleontologists today are convinced that Lissamphibia is indeed a natural group, as there are important characteristics shared with some non-lissamphibian Palaeozoic amphibians.

Currently, the three prevailing theories of lissamphibian origin are:

One of the hypotheses regarding their ancestors is that they evolved by paedomorphosis and miniaturization from early tetrapods.[12]

Recent molecular studies of extant amphibians based on multiple-locus data favor one or the other of the monophyletic alternatives and indicate a Late Carboniferous date for the divergence of the lineage leading to caecilians from the one leading to frogs and salamanders, and an Early Permian date for the separation of the frog and salamander groups.[13][14]


  1. ^ Laurin, M. (2010). How Vertebrates Left the Water. Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-26647-6. 
  2. ^ a b c Anderson, J.S.; Reisz, R.R.; Scott, D.; Fröbisch, N.B.; Sumida, S.S. (2008). "A stem batrachian from the Early Permian of Texas and the origin of frogs and salamanders" (PDF). Nature 453 (7194): 515–518. doi:10.1038/nature06865. PMID 18497824. 
  3. ^ a b Marjanović, D.; Laurin, M. (2009). "The origin(s) of modern amphibians: a commentary". Evolutionary Biology 36 (3): 336–338. doi:10.1007/s11692-009-9065-8. 
  4. ^ Marjanović, D.; Laurin, M. (2007). "Fossils, molecules, divergence times, and the origin of lissamphibians". Systematic Biology 56 (3): 369–388. doi:10.1080/10635150701397635. PMID 17520502. 
  5. ^ Evans, S. E.; Borsuk-Białynicka, M. (2009). "The Early Triassic stem−frog Czatkobatrachus from Poland" (PDF). Palaeontologica Polonica 65: 79–195;. 
  6. ^ a b Duellman, W. E.; Trueb, L. (1994). Biology of amphibians. illustrated by L. Trueb. Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 0-8018-4780-X. 
  7. ^ Haeckel, E. (1866), Generelle Morphologie der Organismen : allgemeine Grundzüge der organischen Formen-Wissenschaft, mechanisch begründet durch die von Charles Darwin reformirte Descendenz-Theorie. Berlin
  8. ^ Säve-Söderbergh, G. (1934). "Some points of view concerning the evolution of the vertebrates and the classification of this group". Arkiv för Zoologi. A 26: 1–20. 
  9. ^ von Huene, F. (1956) Paläontologie und Phylogenie der niederen Tetrapoden, G. Fischer, Jena
  10. ^ Gordon, M.S.; Long, J.A. (2004). "The Greatest Step In Vertebrate History: A Paleobiological Review of the Fish-Tetrapod Transition" (PDF). Physiological and Biochemical Zoology 77 (5): 700–719. doi:10.1086/425183. PMID 15547790. 
  11. ^ Ruta, M.; Coates, M. I. (2007). "Dates, nodes and character conflict: addressing the lissamphibian origin problem". Journal of Systematic Palaeontology 5 (1): 69–122;. doi:10.1017/S1477201906002008. 
  12. ^ "First Land Creatures Had Wild Appearances". 
  13. ^ Sigurdsen, T.; Green, D.M. (2011). "The origin of modern amphibians: a re-evaluation". Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 162 (2): 457–469. doi:10.1111/j.1096-3642.2010.00683.x. 
  14. ^ San Mauro, D. (2010). "A multilocus timescale for the origin of extant amphibians". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 56: 554–561. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2010.04.019. PMID 20399871. 


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