Anuran jumping is a model system for linking muscle physiology to organismal performance. However, anuran species display substantial diversity in their locomotion, with some species performing powerful leaps from riverbanks or tree branches, while other species move predominantly via swimming, short hops or even diagonal-sequence gaits. Furthermore, many anurans with similar locomotion and morphology are actually convergent (e.g. multiple independent evolutions of ‘tree frogs’), while closely related species may differ drastically, as with the walking toad (Melanophryniscus stelzneri) and bullfrog-like river toad (Phrynoides aspera) compared with other Bufonid toads. These multiple independent evolutionary changes in locomotion allow us to test the hypothesis that evolutionary increases in locomotor performance will be linked to the evolution of faster, high-power muscles. I tested the jumping, swimming and walking (when applicable) performance of 14 species of anurans and one salamander, followed by measurement of the contractile properties of the semimembranosus and plantaris longus muscles and anatomical measurements, using phylogenetic comparative methods. I found that increased jumping performance correlated to muscle contractile properties associated with muscle speed (e.g. time to peak tetanus, maximum shortening speed, peak isotonic power), and was tightly linked to relevant anatomical traits (e.g. leg length, muscle mass). Swimming performance was not correlated to jumping, and was correlated with fewer anatomical and muscular variables. Thus, muscle properties evolve along with changes in anatomy to produce differences in overall locomotor performance.
The author declares no competing or financial interests.
This work was supported by National Science Foundation IOS grant 642428 to Thomas J. Roberts, the Bushnell Research and Education Fund to Thomas J. Roberts and H.C.A., and Sigma Xi GIAR grant G20111015158192 to H.C.A.
Supplementary information available online at http://jeb.biologists.org/lookup/doi/10.1242/jeb.142315.supplemental
- Received April 25, 2016.
- Accepted July 27, 2016.
- © 2016. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd