Correlated and decoupled evolution of adult and larval body size in frogs

Tung X. Phung, João C.S. Nascimento, Alexander J. Novarro, John J. Wiens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


The majority of animal species have complex life cycles, in which larval stages may have very different morphologies and ecologies relative to adults. Anurans (frogs) provide a particularly striking example. However, the extent to which larval and adult morphologies (e.g. body size) are correlated among species has not been broadly tested in any major group. Recent studies have suggested that larval and adult morphology are evolutionarily decoupled in frogs, but focused within families and did not compare the evolution of body sizes. Here, we test for correlated evolution of adult and larval body size across 542 species from 42 families, including most families with a tadpole stage. We find strong phylogenetic signal in larval and adult body sizes, and find that both traits are significantly and positively related across frogs. However, this relationship varies dramatically among clades, from strongly positive to weakly negative. Furthermore, rates of evolution for both variables are largely decoupled among clades. Thus, some clades have high rates of adult body-size evolution but low rates in tadpole body size (and vice versa). Overall, we show for the first time that body sizes are generally related between adult and larval stages across a major group, even as evolutionary rates of larval and adult size are largely decoupled among species and clades.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20201474
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1933
StatePublished - Aug 26 2020


  • Anura
  • evolution
  • larvae
  • life cycle
  • macroevolution
  • tadpole

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • General Environmental Science
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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