Approximately 66 million years ago, a mass extinction wiped out dinosaurs and marked the end of the Cretaceous period in history. While the dinosaurs weren’t lucky enough to escape, the ancestors of today’s red-eyed tree frog. managed to survive and adapt to the conditions of the new Paleogene period which included continents drifting, ocean gaps widening, climate cooling and drying, and rising sea levels.
After a thorough examination of patterns of diversification of species, scientists conclude that around 88 percent of frog species today can be traced back to 3 main lineages that popped up during the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction. This discovery breaks the theory that most modern frog groups originated from the Mesozoic era.
Today, scientist are synthesizing data from hundreds of frog genomes and developing a new phylogenic tree— a branch diagram of evolutionary relationships— to better understand how these amphibians came to be.
Photo by Steve Corey/Flickr CC BY-ND 2.0
Caitlin Phillips is a freelance writer spending her summer in Budapest, Hungary.