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J Anat. 2007 Mar;210(3):304-17.

Morphological correlates of aquatic and terrestrial locomotion in a semi-aquatic frog, Rana esculenta: no evidence for a design conflict.

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Department of Biology, University of Antwerp (UIA), Belgium.


Semi-aquatic frogs are faced with an unusual locomotory challenge. They have to swim and jump using the same apparatus, i.e. the hind limbs. Optimization of two tasks that require mutually incompatible morphologies or physiologies cannot occur simultaneously. In such cases, natural selection will result in some compromise, i.e. an intermediate phenotype that can perform both tasks reasonably well, but its performance will never match that of a specialized phenotype. We found no direct evidence for a trade-off between jumping and swimming performance nor for a coupled optimization. This could be due to the importance of overall quality, as suggested by the fact that some frogs possess greater overall muscularity than others, irrespective of their body size. Another explanation could be that some morphological characteristics have a positive effect on both locomotor modes and others show a trade-off effect. The net effect of these characteristics could result in an overall absence of correlation between the two locomotor performances. Size has a great influence on the morphological data and on jumping performance, but not if performance is expressed as velocity. The body shape of an anuran is conservative and scales mostly isometrically.

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