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By the end of this section, you will be able to:
  • Describe the important difference between the life cycle of amphibians and the life cycles of other vertebrates
  • Distinguish between the characteristics of Urodela, Anura, and Apoda
  • Describe the evolutionary history of amphibians

Amphibians are vertebrate tetrapods. Amphibia    includes frogs, salamanders, and caecilians. The term amphibian loosely translates from the Greek as “dual life,” which is a reference to the metamorphosis that many frogs and salamanders undergo and their mixture of aquatic and terrestrial environments in their life cycle. Amphibians evolved during the Devonian period and were the earliest terrestrial tetrapods.

Characteristics of amphibians

As tetrapods, most amphibians are characterized by four well-developed limbs. Some species of salamanders and all caecilians are functionally limbless; their limbs are vestigial. An important characteristic of extant amphibians is a moist, permeable skin that is achieved via mucus glands that keep the skin moist; thus, exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide with the environment can take place through it ( cutaneous respiration    ). Additional characteristics of amphibians include pedicellate teeth—teeth in which the root and crown are calcified, separated by a zone of noncalcified tissue—and a papilla amphibiorum and papilla basilaris, structures of the inner ear that are sensitive to frequencies below and above 10,00 hertz, respectively. Amphibians also have an auricular operculum, which is an extra bone in the ear that transmits sounds to the inner ear. All extant adult amphibians are carnivorous, and some terrestrial amphibians have a sticky tongue that is used to capture prey.

Evolution of amphibians

The fossil record provides evidence of the first tetrapods: now-extinct amphibian species dating to nearly 400 million years ago. Evolution of tetrapods from fishes represented a significant change in body plan from one suited to organisms that respired and swam in water, to organisms that breathed air and moved onto land; these changes occurred over a span of 50 million years during the Devonian period. One of the earliest known tetrapods is from the genus Acanthostega    . Acanthostega was aquatic; fossils show that it had gills similar to fishes. However, it also had four limbs, with the skeletal structure of limbs found in present-day tetrapods, including amphibians. Therefore, it is thought that Acanthostega lived in shallow waters and was an intermediate form between lobe-finned fishes and early, fully terrestrial tetrapods. What preceded Acanthostega ?

In 2006, researchers published news of their discovery of a fossil of a “tetrapod-like fish,” Tiktaalik roseae , which seems to be an intermediate form between fishes having fins and tetrapods having limbs ( [link] ). Tiktaalik likely lived in a shallow water environment about 375 million years ago. Daeschler, E. B., Shubin, N. H., and Jenkins, F. J. “A Devonian tetrapod-like fish and the evolution of the tetrapod body plan,” Nature 440 (2006): 757–763, doi:10.1038/nature04639, http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v440/n7085/abs/nature04639.html.

Questions & Answers

Is the "growth and maintenance phase" in a cell's life cycle when cell division is about to occur
Somto Reply
what is the common name of Basidiomycetes
Ogechukwu Reply
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Complex traits such as height result from 
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chloroplast in plants and bacterial cell ; mitochondria in animal cells
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Diagram of a living cell
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Sule
A cell is the smallest basic unit of life.
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Nutty Reply
Describe the structure of starch?
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Winner
water is life!.. Discuss?
Nutty Reply
why do plants store carbohydrates in form if starch not glucose!
Nutty
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The surgical removal of d spermduct
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Source:  OpenStax, Biology. OpenStax CNX. Feb 29, 2016 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11448/1.10
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