Amphibians are ectothermic, tetrapod vertebrates of the class Amphibia. Modern amphibians are all Lissamphibia. They inhabit a wide variety of habitats, with most species living within terrestrial, fossorial, arboreal or freshwater aquatic ecosystems. Thus amphibians typically start out as larvae living in water, but some species have developed behavioural adaptations to bypass this. The young generally undergo metamorphosis from larva with gills to an adult air-breathing form with lungs. Amphibians use their skin as a secondary respiratory surface and some small terrestrial salamanders and frogs lack lungs and rely entirely on their skin. They are superficially similar to lizards but, along with mammals and birds, reptiles are amniotes and do not require water bodies in which to breed. With their complex reproductive needs and permeable skins, amphibians are often ecological indicators; in recent decades there has been a dramatic decline in amphibian populations for many species around the globe.
The earliest amphibians evolved in the Devonian period from sarcopterygian fish with lungs and bony-limbed fins, features that were helpful in adapting to dry land. They diversified and became dominant during the Carboniferous and Permian periods, but were later displaced by reptiles and other vertebrates. Over time, amphibians shrank in size and decreased in diversity, leaving only the modern subclass Lissamphibia.
The three modern orders of amphibians are Anura (the frogs and toads), Urodela (the salamanders), and Apoda (the caecilians). The number of known amphibian species is approximately 8,000, of which nearly 90% are frogs. The smallest amphibian (and vertebrate) in the world is a frog from New Guinea (Paedophryne amauensis) with a length of just 7.7 mm (0.30 in). The largest living amphibian is the 1.8 m (5 ft 11 in) South China giant salamander (Andrias sligoi), but this is dwarfed by the extinct 9 m (30 ft) Prionosuchus from the middle Permian of Brazil. The study of amphibians is called batrachology, while the study of both reptiles and amphibians is called herpetology.
Selected amphibian type
Caecilians (; New Latin for "blind ones") are a group of limbless, serpentine amphibians. They mostly live hidden in the ground and in stream substrates, making them the least familiar order of amphibians. All modern caecilians and their closest fossil relatives are grouped as a clade, Apoda, within the larger group Gymnophiona, which also includes more primitive extinct caecilian-like amphibians. Caecilians are mostly distributed in the tropics of South and Central America, Africa, and southern Asia. Their diet consists of small subterranean creatures such as earthworms. Read more...
Selected frog article
The true frogs, family Ranidae, have the widest distribution of any frog family. They are abundant throughout most of the world, occurring on all continents except Antarctica. The true frogs are present in North America, northern South America, Europe, Africa (including Madagascar), and Asia. The Asian range extends across the East Indies to New Guinea and a single species (the Australian wood frog (Hylarana daemelii)) has spread into the far north of Australia.
Typically, true frogs are smooth and moist-skinned, with large, powerful legs and extensively webbed feet. The true frogs vary greatly in size, ranging from small—such as the wood frog (Lithobates sylvatica)—to the largest frog in the world, the goliath frog (Conraua goliath).
Many of the true frogs are aquatic or live close to water. Most species lay their eggs in the water and go through a tadpole stage. However, as with most families of frogs, there is large variation of habitat within the family. Those of the genus Tomopterna are burrowing frogs native to Africa and exhibit most of the characteristics common to burrowing frogs around the world. There are also arboreal species of true frogs, and the family includes some of the very few amphibians that can live in brackish water. Read more...
Selected salamander article
Salamanders are a group of amphibians typically characterized by a lizard-like appearance, with slender bodies, blunt snouts, short limbs projecting at right angles to the body, and the presence of a tail in both larvae and adults. All present-day salamander families are grouped together under the order Urodela. Salamander diversity is most abundant in the Northern Hemisphere and most species are found in the Holarctic ecozone, with some species present in the Neotropical zone.
Salamanders rarely have more than four toes on their front legs and five on their rear legs, but some species have fewer digits and others lack hind limbs. Their permeable skin usually makes them reliant on habitats in or near water or other cool, damp places. Some salamander species are fully aquatic throughout their lives, some take to the water intermittently, and others are entirely terrestrial as adults. They are capable of regenerating lost limbs, as well as other damaged parts of their bodies. Researchers hope to reverse engineer the remarkable regenerative processes for potential human medical applications, such as brain and spinal cord injury treatment or preventing harmful scarring during heart surgery recovery. Members of the family Salamandridae are mostly known as newts and lack the costal grooves along the sides of their bodies typical of other groups. The skin of some species contains the powerful poison tetrodotoxin; these salamanders tend to be slow-moving and have bright warning coloration to advertise their toxicity. Salamanders typically lay eggs in water and have aquatic larvae, but great variation occurs in their lifecycles. Some species in harsh environments reproduce while still in the larval state. Read more...
Did you know?
Selected toad article
The neural basis of prey detection, recognition, and orientation was studied in depth by Jörg-Peter Ewert in a series of experiments that made the toad visual system a model system in neuroethology (neural basis of natural behavior). He began by observing the natural prey catching behavior of the common European toad (Bufo bufo).
Ewert's work with toads yielded several important discoveries (Ewert 1974, 2004). In general, his research revealed the specific neural circuits for recognition of complex visual stimuli. Specifically, he identified two main regions of the brain, the tectum and the thalamic-pretectal region, that were responsible for discriminating prey from non-prey and revealed the neural pathways that connected them. Furthermore, he found that the neural mechanisms are plastic and adaptable to varying environments and conditions (Carew 2000; Zupanc 2004). Read more...
Selected caecilian article
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