Does a “primitive” frog show how frog-hopping evolved?
A team of scientists from New Zealand and the United States reported in the journal Naturwissenschaften that frogs evolved the ability to jump before they evolved the ability to land gracefully. The researchers drew their conclusions from observations of a family of so-called “primitive” frogs known as Leiopelmatidae.
Through the use of slow-motion video, the scientists noted that the frogs landed “belly flop” style—more successful for landing in the water than for ground landings. Other frogs, by comparison, adjust their legs in the middle of a jump, allowing a smooth landing on their feet. The poor landings also inhibit the frogs’ ability to make repeated jumps, while the graceful landings allow repeated jumps.
The interpretation the team gives the data is that “early hindlimb recovery might have been a key feature in the evolutionary history of frogs”—that is, the ability is a product of evolution. However, to what degree is this interpretation a product of the fact that the team already thinks Leiopelmatidae frogs to be “primitive”?
Creationists may interpret the research in two ways. First, it may be that each frog’s jumping behavior merely reflects the habitat for which God designed it. Alternatively, it may be that—if we assume the “belly flop” landing is detrimental—Leiopelmatidae frogs have lost the ability to land gracefully, for either genetic or other reasons. For creationists, rather than viewing the more complex behavior as newer (more evolved), we view the more complex behavior as older (the original design).
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