Research shows re-evolution of lost teeth in frogs after more than 200 million years

Feb 07, 2011
Stony Brook University Professor Shows Re-Evolution Of Lost Teeth In Frogs After More Than 200 Million Years
Marsupial treefrog (Gastrotheca guentheri). Photo credit: Biodiversity Institute, University of Kansas.

(PhysOrg.com) -- A new study by a Stony Brook University professor shows that structures that have been evolutionarily lost for hundreds of millions of years can be regained.

A new study by a Stony Brook University professor shows that structures that have been evolutionarily lost for hundreds of millions of years can be regained. The findings are reported in the journal Evolution , in an article entitled "Re-evolution of lost mandibular teeth in frogs after more than 200 million years, and re-evaluating Dollo’s law".

John J. Wiens, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolution, studied the evolution of teeth on the lower jaw in frogs. He combined data from modern frogs, fossils and DNA sequences and utilized new statistical methods to show that frogs lost their teeth on the lower jaw more than 230 million years ago, but that these teeth re-evolved in a single frog species (Gastrotheca guentheri) within the past 20 million years. This means that mandibular teeth were absent for more than 200 million years before re-evolving in Gastrotheca guentheri. Gastrotheca guentheri is a “marsupial” treefrog from Colombia and Ecuador, a species in which females carry their eggs in a pouch on their backs.

The study provides strong evidence against “Dollo’s law,” the idea that a complex trait that is lost during will not re-evolve again. Dollo’s law has been controversial among evolutionary biologists. Some scientists have argued that there are now several examples where complex structures have been lost and regained, such as wings in stick insects, coiling in snail shells, and fingers and toes in lizards. Other scientists have suggested that these examples may be invalid. “The study of teeth in frogs provides very strong evidence for re-evolution of lost structures, and is unusual in showing that this re-evolution can happen after hundreds of millions of years,” Dr. Wiens said.

This study also suggests how a trait can re-evolve after such a long absence, a mechanism that Wiens calls a “loophole” in Dollo’s law. “Even though teeth are absent on the lower jaw in almost all frogs, they are generally present on the upper jaw,” Dr. Wiens said. “So the mechanisms for developing teeth are present in most and did not have to re-evolve in Gastrotheca guentheri in order for teeth to re-appear on the lower jaw.” This type of "loophole" may apply to many other cases in which traits appear to re-evolve, such as in the re-evolution of lost fingers and toes in lizards, he said.

Explore further: Evolution of snake courtship and combat behavior

More information: Paper online: DOI:10.1111/j.1558-5646.2011.01221.x

Other recent papers include:

Wiens, J. J., C. A. Kuczynski,T. Townsend, T. W. Reeder, D. G. Mulcahy, and J. W. Sites, Jr. 2010. Combining phylogenomics and fossils in higher-level squamate reptile phylogeny: molecular data change the placement of fossil taxa. Systematic Biology 59:674–688.

Wiens, J. J., J. Sukumaran, R. A. Pyron, and R. M. Brown. 2009. Evolutionary and biogeographic origins of high tropical diversity in Old World frogs (Ranidae). Evolution 63:1217–1231.

Related Stories

Scientist describes toothy microfossils

Oct 29, 2010

They had rows of sharp, interlocking conical teeth that, while not affixed to a jaw like we know, would rake prey into their mouths kind of like the creature in the movie "Alien."

Dracula minnow has teeth, almost

Mar 11, 2009

A new species of tiny fish with jaw structures that look like huge teeth has been identified, Natural History Museum scientists report in the Proceedings of the Royal Society journal today.

Sea snails break the law

Apr 24, 2007

Lizards gave rise to legless snakes. Cave fishes don’t have eyeballs. In evolution, complicated structures often get lost. Dollo’s Law states that complicated structures can't be re-evolved because the ...

Mice teeth explain the troubles with human wisdom teeth

Sep 26, 2007

During evolution, many of a species’ properties are shaped by ecological interactions. This is readily evident in mammalian teeth, whose many features closely reflect what each species eats. However, for a long time scientists ...

Biologists find gene network that gave rise to first tooth

Feb 10, 2009

A paper in this week's PLoS Biology reports that a common gene regulatory circuit controls the development of all dentitions, from the first teeth in the throats of jawless fishes that lived half a billion years ago, to the ...

Recommended for you

Genetic secrets of the monarch butterfly revealed

10 minutes ago

The monarch butterfly is one of the most iconic insects in the world, best known for its distinct orange and black wings and a spectacular annual mass migration across North America. However, little has been ...

What happens when good genes get lost?

3 hours ago

Scientifically speaking, there is no bad DNA, though we like to blame it for unruly hair, klutziness or poor gardening skills. There is, however, junk DNA.

User comments : 33

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

orsr
5 / 5 (2) Feb 08, 2011
I wonder if the genes responsible for the forming of teeth were used for other purposes or if they simply went into "stand-by" mode during 200 M years.
Djincs
3 / 5 (6) Feb 08, 2011
I am for the stand-by theory, there are people born with tails, and fur. It is not so complicated after all, for a gene to be transcribate you should have region before this gene that is important, when a trait is lost it can be due to lost of the gene or the region before the gene that is important for the transcription, obliously with the case of the frog only this region regulator were lost, and then it happened to get back.
kevinrtrs
1.4 / 5 (19) Feb 08, 2011
This means that it's possible that the researcher's offspring might turn out to be chimpanzees!

Re-evolution of things is a major problem for the evolutionary theory and very controversial. So for these researchers to state so calmly that things have re-evolved takes a lot of guts. It upsets the timelines. Or maybe it's because OF the timelines that it's now necessary that these creatures re-evolve something that doesn't fit into the tree of evolutionary life.
Mayor__Dooley
4 / 5 (12) Feb 08, 2011
It has nothing to do with guts. The scientific method is about truths which is something you are known to have little regard for.
antialias
4.4 / 5 (14) Feb 08, 2011
This means that it's possible that the researcher's offspring might turn out to be chimpanzees!

*sigh*. Chimpanzees are not our ancestors. We just share a common ancestor with them (and with all others).

Re-evolution of things is a major problem for the evolutionary theory and very controversial.

No. It is not a major problem. It is not even a minor problem. Evolution does not have a definite direction. When genes get expressed in a random mutation (whether from external sources mutating your gene sequence or internally having old 'junk' DNA reactivated as in the case of this species of frog) it is the fitness of that mutation which decides whether the mutated frogs outbreed the rest and the new genetic sequence thereby grows dominant.

Having teeth obvioulsy gives these frogs an advantage in their niche (just like not having teeth is an advantage for other frogs in THEIR niche)
Ethelred
4.2 / 5 (15) Feb 08, 2011
Kevin that post was brain damaged even by your abysmal standards. The frogs had genes to produce teeth so they only needed to be expressed in the lower jaws. The genes were already expressed in the upper jaws.

And if YOU had guts you would quit evading the question.

When was the Flood Kevin?

Ethelred
antialias
4.6 / 5 (10) Feb 08, 2011
When was the Flood Kevin?

And why were all land animals reduced down to one pair, while all the fish and crustaceans were spared? (especially since god seems to hate the latter according to Leviticus)
DontBeBlind
1.3 / 5 (14) Feb 08, 2011
antialias fish can swim!!!
Ethelred the flood was several thousand years ago.
mayor dooley The scientific method is about truths when did this start? Their no truth to evolution.Even charles darwin said it was flawed at the end of his days.

John J. Wiens, Ph.D. ty for the good laugh
antialias
5 / 5 (13) Feb 08, 2011
antialias fish can swim!!!

That's the point. God made such a point about killing off nearly everything (in effect punishing most all his creation by death)...but somehow the fish got a free pass.

If it was all about humans then why did he not just have a go at them and leave all the animals out of it? Or are just land based animals bad and water based animals good?

OK...this is completely off topic so I'll stop now. I would otherwise go on for days about the moral and factual inconsistencies of the bible.
Ethelred
4.7 / 5 (12) Feb 08, 2011
Ethelred the flood was several thousand years ago.
So why isn't there any evidence? And how come the Egyptians didn't notice that they died? I think the lack of dead Egyptians and Sumerians and Chinese is a bad sign for your ideas.
The scientific method is about truths when did this start?
Since the Scientific method started.
Their no truth to evolution.
Uh you don't know anything about evolution or you would not say that.
Even charles darwin said it was flawed at the end of his days.
No. ONE woman LIED about it and she wasn't there. His family that WAS there said she was wrong.

Would you care to make anymore profoundly ignorant statements that we have heard before?

John J. Wiens, Ph.D. ty for the good laugh
No no. Thank YOU for a very silly post based on ignorance of a level that had to be difficult to achieve. How many years did you study to expunge all traces of rational thought?

Ethelred
jmcanoy1860
5 / 5 (8) Feb 08, 2011
John

Fish can swim. They cannot, however, all accept the massive changes in salinity required to survive under miles of fresh water.

What's that Ph.D in again?
jmcanoy1860
4.2 / 5 (5) Feb 08, 2011
Why is it always the people who can't spell who claim to have the most education around here?
Paljor
4 / 5 (4) Feb 08, 2011
Fresh water??!! And i suppose it all disapeared right afterwards...phaaa ha ha ah! you make me laugh with your ridiculisness and i suppose that the gigantic saltwater oceans didn't have an effect eventhough they SURROUND IT. and where did all this water magically come from? where is it now? what does this have to do with frogs teeth? all questions I want answered...
Yellowdart
1 / 5 (4) Feb 08, 2011
And how come the Egyptians didn't notice that they died?


Egyptians werent around till after...thats why. By Hittite, Assyrian, Isrealite histories, Egyptian dynasties are comprised of many contemporary dynasties. The solithic based timeline is highly flawed and fails to satisfy concurrent events.

If it was all about humans then why did he not just have a go at them and leave all the animals out of it? Or are just land based animals bad and water based animals good?


He didnt leave all the animals out of it. Climate change rendered many of them unable to cope afterwards. Not all fish survived either, obviously, most likely from the heavier salt water that resulted in the oceans.

Besides, one simple reason is so that we can both come to the understanding that evolution is a prime mechanism for population of the earth and diversity amongst species...that process is irrelative to millions of years. It only takes reproduction.
trekgeek1
5 / 5 (5) Feb 08, 2011
@Yellowdart

Several thousand years implies 4-5 thousand. Ancient Egyptians were already making boats in 3000 B.C.E. Given that this is now 2000 C.E. we can see that 5000 years have elapsed. Which brings up another question of why did everyone else with a boat die? Only the ark could float? What about dinosaurs?

The whole thing is so damn stupid that it's pathetic that we even get pulled into discussing it in the 21st century, especially on a science website.
TheGhostofOtto1923
3.7 / 5 (18) Feb 08, 2011
Re-evolution of things is a major problem for the evolutionary theory and very controversial.
Well, evolutionary theory can accomodate new evidence but idiot godder theory is as unchanging as your book (I am being sarcastic).

Certainly, additional evidence for evolution and the changing nature of species is much more of a problem for creationism than for science, dont you agree kevin? The book doesnt say that god created animals and plants and us on whatever day or days, and then came back some time later to update his work now does it?

Only the world tells us this, and the world clearly contradicts the book. Which has more of a chance of being gods creation? The world or a book? You know, the book which is supposedly the unalterable word of god but which has that phoney ending tacked onto Mark to make it so you all live happily ever after?

What does god write kevin? A book or the universe???
(Answer- neither)
T2Nav
5 / 5 (1) Feb 08, 2011
Is our anti-evolution friend saying Dolphins and Whales (land critters who evolved back into fish-shapes due to their seafaring ways) don't exist, or that they were created by his magic friend?
Ethelred
5 / 5 (2) Feb 09, 2011
Egyptians werent around till after...thats why.
So when was the Flood Yellowdart and can you justify the date you use with the Bible?
By Hittite, Assyrian, Isrealite histories, Egyptian dynasties are comprised of many contemporary dynasties.
No. Mostly just one at a time. There was ONE period where it was mixed after Narmer unified the upper and lower kingdoms. Narmer was before any date I have seen for Flood that was Bible based and long before the pyramids were built.
The solithic based timeline is highly flawed and fails to satisfy concurrent events.
Can you give REAL evidence to support that. I have see a claim of 300 years which actually looks like it might be true but 300 years isn't going to do it for you. I did just read a link that Breadhead posted on this exact item and the link came down to ... 300 years though he tried to imply that it was more before he gave the actual time.

More
Ethelred
5 / 5 (3) Feb 09, 2011
He didnt leave all the animals out of it.
He knew that. He asked why Jehovah DID NOT leave the animals alone. After all Jehovah was supposed have Flooded the highest mountain because he was pissed at MAN not animals.
Besides, one simple reason is so that we can both come to the understanding that evolution is a prime mechanism for population of the earth and diversity amongst species...that process is irrelative to millions of years.
It does take a long time and a long time was available.
It only takes reproduction.
Not quite. It takes reproduction with mutations and natural selection by the environment over fairly long periods of time.

And just in case you lost track of the question.

When do you think the Flood occurred? Can you reconcile that with REAL time-lines? Keep in mind that the Biblical Timeline is mated to the Egyptian timeline so if you change the Egyptian timeline you also change the Biblical timeline.

Ethelred
jmcanoy1860
not rated yet Feb 09, 2011
Is our anti-evolution friend saying Dolphins and Whales (land critters who evolved back into fish-shapes due to their seafaring ways) don't exist, or that they were created by his magic friend?


It was my understanding that "magic" was the default mechanism of any deity.
jmcanoy1860
5 / 5 (3) Feb 09, 2011
@Yellowdart

Several thousand years implies 4-5 thousand. Ancient Egyptians were already making boats in 3000 B.C.E. Given that this is now 2000 C.E. we can see that 5000 years have elapsed. Which brings up another question of why did everyone else with a boat die? Only the ark could float? What about dinosaurs?

The whole thing is so damn stupid that it's pathetic that we even get pulled into discussing it in the 21st century, especially on a science website.


They assuage their hurt feelings over not being scientific or pertinent to modern culture by manufacturing a "scientific debate" in the forums. They remain irrelevant.
jmcanoy1860
5 / 5 (1) Feb 09, 2011
"Egyptians werent around till after...thats why. By Hittite, Assyrian, Isrealite histories, Egyptian dynasties are comprised of many contemporary dynasties. The solithic based timeline is highly flawed and fails to satisfy concurrent events."

Lol. There is something wrong with this paragraph. I can't quite put my finger on it. Whooooo!!!

Made my morning!!!
SmartK8
1 / 5 (1) Feb 13, 2011
The frogs with teeth. My nightmares will get more creative from now on.

More on the off-topic: Christian god is obviously the Poseidon. That would explain few things.
Yellowdart
1 / 5 (2) Mar 15, 2011
No. Mostly just one at a time. There was ONE period where it was mixed after Narmer unified the upper and lower kingdoms. Narmer was before any date I have seen for Flood that was Bible based and long before the pyramids were built.


Bruce Williams has come back and said that the work on Narmer should be dated as dynastic period, not pre-dynastic. In other words it would be no earlier than Menes and the 1st Dynasty. Which means no earlier than Mestarim who Eusebius wrote about as the founder of egypt and a grandson of Noah.

Can you give REAL evidence to support that.


The evidence hasn't changed. When you take into account the Assyrian, Hittite, Israel, and Egyptian histories, dynasties 20-24 are likely contemporary. As the Hyskos controlled the 14-17th dynasties they are likely over lapped as well.

Yellowdart
1 / 5 (3) Mar 15, 2011
When do you think the Flood occurred? Can you reconcile that with REAL time-lines?


Exodus was 1445 B.C. Usually that is associated by Egyptian scholars as the 18th dynasty, but on the surrounding evidence, that makes little sense. It makes more sense for the Exodus to have occurred during the 13th dynasty, after the oppression in the 12th. Given the evidence that a large slave population up and left. It would also be why the Hyskos took over without a fight, and why Neferhotep I, whose body is still missing in action may be at the bottom of the Red Sea and that's why.

If that is the case, then Abraham, who was a Chaldean, would have visited Egypt around the 4th dynasty, where you see an noticeable jump in pyramid math and architectural differences than previously. That's roughly 1875 BC ish.

That means 400 plus years before you arrive at Noah, and most likely the Flood around the 2300 BC timeframe.

An exact date is impractical and hard to know.
Yellowdart
1 / 5 (2) Mar 15, 2011
Not quite. It takes reproduction with mutations and natural selection by the environment over fairly long periods of time.


Mutations and natural selection occur at reproduction, not after birth. The mechanism must act at conception so to speak or splitting/combining of the DNA...unless you believe we can evolve in adulthood? This is why long periods are actually unnecessary, reproduction occurs when you have sex for instance and the variation of your offspring is obtained rather instantly as it grows during gestation. I doubt you think Tremors 3 is a real example of evolution...
Yellowdart
1 / 5 (2) Mar 15, 2011
Which brings up another question of why did everyone else with a boat die? Only the ark could float? What about dinosaurs?

The whole thing is so damn stupid that it's pathetic that we even get pulled into discussing it in the 21st century, especially on a science website.


Is it? Look at the tsunami and earthquake in Japan. Look at the before and after pictures.

The biblical Flood is not a description of a baby rain storm and with the calmness of your back yard swimming pool. It absolutely wrecked the foundations of the earth. Week after week of earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and violent wave oscillations producing multiple tsunamis even after the rain came to an end. The earth is still reeling from it, and its why you still have earthquakes.

The ark was built for that purpose, to float it out. Your 1st dynasty boats are small, and no where near that engineering. Do you even think modern boats were built for it considering a smaller scale, no warning? Nope.
TheGhostofOtto1923
3.8 / 5 (13) Mar 15, 2011
Dynasty XIII was from approximately 1773 BC to sometime after 1650 BC. During that time Egypt controlled the Sinai and the Levant with numerous military outposts along the route which the mythic israelites would have had to take.

Guess again.
An exact date is impractical and hard to know.
Yes because the evidence overwhelmingly indicates that it never happened. Any of it.
TheGhostofOtto1923
3.7 / 5 (12) Mar 15, 2011
It absolutely wrecked the foundations of the earth.
The earth has no foundations.
Week after week of earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and violent wave oscillations producing multiple tsunamis even after the rain came to an end.
But there is absolutely no evidence that this ever occured, and a great deal of evidence that what we see today was produced by other means, and took a much longer time to produce.

Washing the coastline of japan away is not the same as forcing Pangea apart and congealing mud into limestone along with dinosaur fossils, and creating the Himalayas with it in 40 days and 40 nights. The laws of physics, which you yourself believe were written by a perfect god to govern his perfect universe, will not allow it.

Are you calling god deceptive for creating evidence which directly contradicts his book?
PaulieMac
5 / 5 (2) Mar 16, 2011
The whole thing is so damn stupid that it's pathetic that we even get pulled into discussing it in the 21st century, especially on a science website.



Is it?


Yes. It is.


The biblical Flood is not a description of a baby rain storm and with the calmness of your back yard swimming pool.


It is not a description of anything real...

Couple of questions for you... How did Noah manage to get down to Australia and pick up his pairs of Kangaroos etc? And the many unique flightless bird species of New Zealand?

How about the Penguins of the Antarctic? They are 'land animals'... How did old Noah manage to rescue them?

Actually, why does Australia show no sign whatsoever of being submerged in the last few thousand years? Why do the Australian Aboriginal peoples have unique cultural histories spanning thousands of thousands of years before *and* after your 'global flood', with no sign of them all being wiped out?

Yellowdart
1 / 5 (3) Mar 24, 2011
Dynasty XIII was from approximately 1773 BC to sometime after 1650 BC. During that time Egypt controlled the Sinai and the Levant with numerous military outposts along the route which the mythic israelites would have had to take.


Perhaps it was, but by whose timescale are you using? When in comparison to other histories and not just Egypt, Dynasty 13 is likely to be later and in line with the Israelites leaving Egypt, and Hyskos taking over a few years later.

The earth has no foundations.


Thank you for agreeing. I believe I just said they were wrecked...also meaning destroyed.

and creating the Himalayas with it in 40 days and 40 nights. The laws of physics, which you yourself believe were written by a perfect god to govern his perfect universe, will not allow it.


They were on the ark for months. Why? Because it wasn't safe to exit for well longer than 40 days. And yes, the laws of physics are quite intact.
Yellowdart
1 / 5 (3) Mar 24, 2011
Couple of questions for you... How did Noah manage to get down to Australia and pick up his pairs of Kangaroos etc? And the many unique flightless bird species of New Zealand?


Pangaea or a "single" land mass was the same prior to the Flood as other's suggest. So it would be very easy to get Kangaroos, penguins, tigers, dogs etc, there was no Australia yet.

There isn't disagreement on a single land mass to start. The difference is the rate. Under current conditions, plates do not move easily. But during the Flood, they would have been lubricated. Frankly, no different than when your car hydroplanes, so once broken by the explosion of water from deep underground, the crust is shattered and starts sliding away in essence downhill till it collides/compresses with opposing plates.

Post flood, evolution is a fantastic mechanism for returning diversity to nature. They could spread to australia because the sea levels were lower initially after the flood, ie land bridges.
Yellowdart
1 / 5 (3) Mar 24, 2011
Are you calling god deceptive for creating evidence which directly contradicts his book?


Where is the contradiction? Where is the deception?

Mass graveyards of fossilized animals would be the result of a mass event, containing water/liquid. Sediment is a result of deposits by water, ice, or wind. Fossils are found in sediment. Sorry, but the more logical conclusion for the evidence is that a global event occurred, which destroyed life, most likely by water, which laid the majority of sediment down over more than 70% of the earth's surface.

Why are you so deceived?