Hormonal induction of thumb pads and the evolution of secondary sexual characteristics of the Southeast Asian fanged frog, Rana blythii

Sharon B. Emerson, Lara Carroll, David L. Hess

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    9 Scopus citations


    The fanged frogs of Southeast Asia do not express most of the hormone-dependent secondary sexual characteristics such as thumb pads that are common to other ranid frogs. At the same point in the evolutionary history of the group that these androgen-mediated characteristics are lost, male parental care first evolves. This behavior is often correlated with low androgen levels. Prior work indicates that in one of the ranged frogs, Rana blythii, adult males have low androgen levels compared to North Temperate species of Rana. This leads to the question of whether these low androgen levels are related to the unusual male parental care and the lack of expression of the thumb pad and other hormone-dependent secondary sexual characteristics in this species. We tested that hypothesis by examining the effects of exogenous dihydrotestosterone supplements on the expression of thumb pads in Rana blythii. Dihydrotestosterone injections appear to stimulate the expression of the thumb pad in R. blythii. These results support the hypothesis that low androgen levels are involved in the loss of the thumb pad in R. blythii. This work provides an example of how mapping characters on phylogenies can be a powerful approach for gaining insights into proximate physiological mechanisms of selection at the evolutionary level.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)587-596
    Number of pages10
    JournalJournal of Experimental Zoology
    Issue number6
    StatePublished - Dec 15 1997


    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Animal Science and Zoology

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