National Geographic News: “First Lungless Frog Found” Scientists have officially recorded a frog, Barbourula kalimantanensis, that has no lungs but instead breathes through its skin.
Found on the Indonesian island of Borneo, the frog’s lunglessness was discovered during a “routine dissection,” explained National University of Singapore biologist David Bickford, lead researcher on the newly analyzed frog.
Interestingly, the frog species was originally discovered and described back in 1978, yet because its rarity precluded a dissection, scientists knew nothing about what the frog was missing on the inside. When Bickford found the species on Borneo, he began dissecting them.
When Bickford found the species on Borneo, he began dissecting them.
Until now, the only known lungless, four-limbed animals were salamanders. Bickford’s team suggest that, as an amphibian, B. kalimantanensis is sticking to an aquatic breathing mechanism—respiring through its skin because of the higher concentration of dissolved oxygen in fast-flowing, cold water. The B. kalimantanensis is also flat, giving it a large surface area for absorbing oxygen, and has a low metabolic rate, meaning it needs less oxygen anyway.
So what’s the story on how this frog ended up without lungs? First, University of California–Berkeley biologist David Wake explains that the existence of a lungless frog is unsurprising because tailed frogs are already known for tiny lungs, and (as with most amphibians) get the majority of their oxygen through the skin.
Thus, there may have been some selective advantage for individuals of this frog species that had a mutation that caused them to grow without lungs. What we see here is a species losing a feature, not gaining one—exactly the opposite of what molecules-to-man evolution predicts. Of course, the other distinct possibility is that God created it that way from the beginning.
Unfortunately for the research team, whose find was published in Current Biology, the rarity of the species and the fragility of its environment may stand in the way of many more dissections of this mysterious lungless frog.
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