Mantella frogs and convergent evolution

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The mantella frogs are a a colorful group found only on the island of Madagascar. At first glance, most people would initially think this frog was related to the poison dart frogs (Dendrobatidae) from central and south America, but they are in fact distantly related. Though they many look very similar, both frogs just found a very successful evolutionary design and their nearest ancestor was millions of years ago. Both Dendrobatidae and Mantellidae are generally small, toxic, aposmatically colored, primarily terrestrial, and often diurnal, which are unusual traits for the majority of frogs. These frogs have evolved to fill nearly the same ecological niches and subsequently ended up looking remarkably similar in a textbook example of convergent evolution.

Convergent evolution is defined when organisms have analogous structures (i.e similar), but they lack a recent common ancestor. The classic example is winged flight. Mantella and dedrobated frogs coevolution may not be as dramatic as say bugs and birds, but it is amazing none-the-less.

The first picture is Mantella baroni, a relatively common species about 2-2.5cm measured from snout to vent. The second is an unusual coloration of Mantella pulchra. A currently vulnerable species that may need stricter protection in the coming years. The last picture I put in for comparison (a rather poor one too!) is the azure or blue poison frog, Dendrobates azureus, from far off Central America. I have a few odd side to side pictures, if I can dig them up I will try to up load them.

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The family Mantellidae  is one of my favorite groups of frogs; it contains an large radiation of roughly 75 beautiful species. Sadly, Madagascar’s rates of habitat change and deforestation are…well how do I say this… appalling? Astonishing,?And…. well they are pretty bad. But, there are many people that working diligently to protect what remains of many of the species that remain. If you would like to know more I highly recommend the following website http://www.sahonagasy.org

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