The Oldest True FrogDavid Cannatella
Vieraella herbsti, from the Early Jurassic (188-213 my), is the earliest record of what most of us think of as a true frog. It is known only from the dorsal and ventral impressions of a single animal. The dorsal part was found in 1961 by Rafael Herbst in Santa Cruz Province, Argentina. The ventral impression (counterpart) was found just a few years later by the noted paleontologist Casamiquela. Estes and Reig (1973) reviewed the fossil material.
The frog is estimated to be 33 mm in snout-vent length. This fossil has been recently re-described by Báez and Basso (ms), who interpret the frog as having ten presacral vertebrae. Their phylogenetic analysis places it more basal than Notobatrachus + living frogs (Anura).
Ford and Cannatella (1993) defined Anura as a node-based name for the ancestor (most recent) of living frogs and all its descendants. This was done in part to associate the name with a stable taxonomic content. By this definition, then, Vieraella is not part of Anura, although it is part of the larger group Salientia.
Estes, R., and O. A. Reig. 1973. The early fossil record of frogs: a review of the evidence. Pp. 11-63 In J. L. Vial (Ed.), Evolutionary Biology of the Anurans: Contemporary Research on Major Problems. University of Missouri Press, Columbia.
Ford, L. S., and D. C. Cannatella. 1993. The major clades of frogs. Herp. Monogr. 7:94-117.
University of Texas, Austin, Texas, USA
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Page copyright © 1995 David Cannatella
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Cannatella, David. 1995. Vieraella herbsti. The Oldest True Frog. Version 01 January 1995 (under construction). http://tolweb.org/Vieraella_herbsti/16964/1995.01.01 in The Tree of Life Web Project, http://tolweb.org/