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FrogsA frog is any member of a diverse and largely carnivorous group of short-bodied, tailless amphibians composing the order Anura. The oldest fossil "proto-frog" appeared in the early Triassic of Madagascar, but molecular clock dating suggests their origins may extend further back to the Permian, 265 million years ago. Frogs are widely distributed, ranging from the tropics to subarctic regions, but the greatest concentration of species diversity is in tropical rainforests. There are over 6,300 recorded species, accounting for around 88% of extant amphibian species. They are also one of the five most diverse vertebrate orders. Warty frog species tend to be called toads, but the distinction between frogs and toads is informal, not from taxonomy or evolutionary history.
Frogs are amphibians that are known for their jumping abilities, croaking sounds, bulging eyes and slimy skin. They live all over the world and are among the most diverse animals in the world, with more than 6,000 species.
Frogs substantially outnumber the two other groups of amphibians — salamanders and caecilians. According to the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) online reference site, Amphibian Species of the World, which is updated in real time, as of late April 2015, there are 6,482 species in the Anura order (frogs and toads), 691 species in the Caudata order (salamanders and newts) and 204 species in the Gymnophiona order (caecilians). Caecilians look like large worms or slick snakes, according to the San Diego Zoo. They have no arms or legs, and live underground in a network of tunnels.
An adult frog has a stout body, protruding eyes, anteriorly-attached tongue, limbs folded underneath, and no tail (except in tailed frogs). Frogs have glandular skin, with secretions ranging from distasteful to toxic. Their skin varies in colour from well-camouflaged dappled brown, grey and green to vivid patterns of bright red or yellow and black to show toxicity and ward off predators. Adult frogs live in fresh water and on dry land; some species are adapted for living underground or in trees.
Frogs typically lay their eggs in water. The eggs hatch into aquatic larvae called tadpoles that have tails and internal gills. They have highly specialized rasping mouth parts suitable for herbivorous, omnivorous or planktivorous diets. The life cycle is completed when they metamorphose into adults. A few species deposit eggs on land or bypass the tadpole stage. Adult frogs generally have a carnivorous diet consisting of small invertebrates, but omnivorous species exist and a few feed on fruit. Frog skin has a rich microbiome which is important to their health. Frogs are extremely efficient at converting what they eat into body mass. They are an important food source for predators and part of the food web dynamics of many of the world's ecosystems. The skin is semi-permeable, making them susceptible to dehydration, so they either live in moist places or have special adaptations to deal with dry habitats. Frogs produce a wide range of vocalizations, particularly in their breeding season, and exhibit many different kinds of complex behaviours to attract mates, to fend off predators and to generally survive.
The Anura include all modern frogs and any fossil species that fit within the anuran definition. The characteristics of anuran adults include: 9 or fewer presacral vertebrae, the presence of a urostyle formed of fused vertebrae, no tail, a long and forward-sloping ilium, shorter fore limbs than hind limbs, radius and ulna fused, tibia and fibula fused, elongated ankle bones, absence of a prefrontal bone, presence of a hyoid plate, a lower jaw without teeth (with the exception of Gastrotheca guentheri) consisting of three pairs of bones (angulosplenial, dentary, and mentomeckelian, with the last pair being absent in Pipoidea), an unsupported tongue, lymph spaces underneath the skin, and a muscle, the protractor lentis, attached to the lens of the eye. The anuran larva or tadpole has a single central respiratory spiracle and mouthparts consisting of keratinous beaks and denticles.
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