99-million-year-old frog found encased in amber

Science								Image Source Lida Xing et

The fossils included one skeleton of a frog that was complete enough for scientists to identify it as a new species, named Electrorana limoae, the study said.

The amber fossils discovered also had evidence of mosses, plants, aquatic spiders and other insects, as well as marine mollusks.

"Frogs are common animals to encounter in the wet tropical forests of today, and easily more than a third of the almost 7,000 species of frogs live in these wet forests", David C. Blackburn, a co-author of the new study and the associate curator of amphibians and reptiles at the Florida Museum of Natural History, told Gizmodo.

This means that the fossil record for frogs is skewed towards more robust species which live in arid and seasonal environments, despite the bulk of today's frog species living in tropical forests. "These frogs were part of a tropical system that, in some ways, might not have been that different to what we find today - minus the dinosaurs".

Found in amber amphibian was quite well preserved, allowing scientists to conduct a CT scan to obtain a three-dimensional model of the long-extinct animal, although the bulk of its soft tissue had decomposed.

"Whilst Electrorana doesn't preserve much soft tissue, unlike some wonderful lizard specimens from the same deposits, its well-preserved skeleton represents the oldest record of a frog from a tropical forest, which is a very important modern habitat for frogs", says Michael Pittman, a paleontologist at the University of Hong Kong.

Prehistoric frogs that have been trapped in amber for 99 million years provide a glimpse into how the ancient world looked like.

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"Lizards and frogs in amber are certainly not unheard of, but ones this old are exceptional".

The study determined that frogs, which emerged about 200 million years ago, were living in soggy forested areas at least 100 million years ago.

However, Blackburn noted that small animals living in tropical forests have a very low chance of leaving behind fossils, which makes it hard to study their ancient history. "But surprisingly, we have nearly nothing from the fossil record to say that's a longstanding association". Over time, the resin turned into amber, leaving the frog remarkably preserved. It contains the skull, forelimbs, part of a backbone and a partial hind limb of an ancient juvenile frog.

TICKS THAT FED ON DINOSAURS FOUND TRAPPED IN AMBER Scientists discovered a dinosaur feather encased in pieces of Cretaceous-era amber, with a tick tangled up in the plumage.

The existing bones hint that Electroana could be related to fire-bellied toads and midwife toads, but there's a problem - those Eurasian species live in temperate climates, not wet rainforests.

"We don't have a lot of single-species frog communities in forests", he said. That would allow scientists to ask more sophisticated questions about the way these ancient frogs lived and evolved. It seems extremely unlikely that there's only one. "There could be a lot more fossils coming", the authors wrote in the journal Scientific Reports.

Four little frogs are the earliest evidence of the existence of these amphibians, according to Gizmodo.

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