The evidentiary basis of the currently accepted classification of living amphibians is discussed and shown not to warrant the degree of authority conferred on it by use and tradition. A new taxonomy of living amphibians is proposed to correct the deficiencies of the old one. This new taxonomy is based on the largest phylogenetic analysis of living Amphibia so far accomplished. We combined the comparative anatomical character evidence of Haas (2003) with DNA sequences from the mitochondrial transcription unit H1 (12S and 16S ribosomal RNA and tRNAValine genes, ≈ 2,400 bp of mitochondrial sequences) and the nuclear genes histone H3, rhodopsin, tyrosinase, and seven in absentia, and the large ribosomal subunit 28S (≈ 2,300 bp of nuclear sequences; ca. 1.8 million base pairs; x̄ = 3.7 kb/terminal). The dataset includes 532 terminals sampled from 522 species representative of the global diversity of amphibians as well as seven of the closest living relatives of amphibians for outgroup comparisons.
The primary purpose of our taxon sampling strategy was to provide strong tests of the monophyly of all “family-group” taxa. All currently recognized nominal families and subfamilies were sampled, with the exception of Protohynobiinae (Hynobiidae). Many of the currently recognized genera were also sampled. Although we discuss the monophyly of genera, and provide remedies for nonmonophyly where possible, we also make recommendations for future research.
A parsimony analysis was performed under Direct Optimization, which simultaneously optimizes nucleotide homology (alignment) and tree costs, using the same set of assumptions throughout the analysis. Multiple search algorithms were run in the program POY over a period of seven months of computing time on the AMNH Parallel Computing Cluster.
Results demonstrate that the following major taxonomic groups, as currently recognized, are nonmonophyletic: Ichthyophiidae (paraphyletic with respect to Uraeotyphlidae), Caeciliidae (paraphyletic with respect to Typhlonectidae and Scolecomorphidae), Salamandroidea (paraphyletic with respect to Sirenidae), Leiopelmatanura (paraphyletic with respect to Ascaphidae), Discoglossanura (paraphyletic with respect to Bombinatoridae), Mesobatrachia (paraphyletic with respect to Neobatrachia), Pipanura (paraphyletic with respect to Bombinatoridae and Discoglossidae/Alytidae), Hyloidea (in the sense of containing Heleophrynidae; paraphyletic with respect to Ranoidea), Leptodactylidae (polyphyletic, with Batrachophrynidae forming the sister taxon of Myobatrachidae Limnodynastidae, and broadly paraphyletic with respect to Hemiphractinae, Rhinodermatidae, Hylidae, Allophrynidae, Centrolenidae, Brachycephalidae, Dendrobatidae, and Bufonidae), Microhylidae (polyphyletic, with Brevicipitinae being the sister taxon of Hemisotidae), Microhylinae (poly/paraphyletic with respect to the remaining non-brevicipitine microhylids), Hyperoliidae (para/polyphyletic, with Leptopelinae forming the sister taxon of Arthroleptidae Astylosternidae), Astylosternidae (paraphyletic with respect to Arthroleptinae), Ranidae (paraphyletic with respect to Rhacophoridae and Mantellidae). In addition, many subsidiary taxa are demonstrated to be nonmonophyletic, such as (1) Eleutherodactylus with respect to Brachycephalus; (2) Rana (sensu Dubois, 1992), which is polyphyletic, with various elements falling far from each other on the tree; and (3) Bufo, with respect to several nominal bufonid genera.
A new taxonomy of living amphibians is proposed, and the evidence for this is presented to promote further investigation and data