Background: Over the last ten years we have seen great efforts focused on revising amphibian systematics. Phylogenetic reconstructions derived from DNA sequence data have played a central role in these revisionary studies but have typically under-sampled the diverse frog family Microhylidae. Here, we present a detailed phylogenetic study focused on expanding previous hypotheses of relationships within this cosmopolitan family. Specifically, we placed an emphasis on assessing relationships among New World genera and those taxa with uncertain phylogenetic affinities (i.e., incertae sedis).

Results: One mitochondrial and three nuclear genes (about 2.8 kb) were sequenced to assess phylogenetic relationships. We utilized an unprecedented sampling of 200 microhylid taxa representing 91% of currently recognized subfamilies and 95% of New World genera. Our analyses do not fully resolve relationships among subfamilies supporting previous studies that have suggested a rapid early diversification of this clade. We observed a close relationship between Synapturanus and Otophryne of the subfamily Otophryninae. Within the subfamily Gastrophryninae relationships between genera were well resolved.

Conclusion: Otophryninae is distantly related to all other New World microhylids that were recovered as a monophyletic group, Gastrophryninae. Within Gastrophryninae, five genera were recovered as non-monophyletic; we propose taxonomic re-arrangements to render all genera monophyletic. This hypothesis of relationships and updated classification for New World microhylids may serve as a guide to better understand the evolutionary history of this group that is apparently subject to convergent morphological evolution and chromosome reduction. Based on a divergence analysis calibrated with hypotheses from previous studies and fossil data, it appears that microhylid genera inhabiting the New World originated during a period of gradual cooling from the late Oligocene to mid Miocene.

Document Type


Publication Date


Publisher Statement

Copyright © 2012 de Sá, et al. This article first appeared in BMC Evolutionary Biology 12, no. 1 (December 2012): 241. doi:10.1186/1471-2148-12-241.

Please note that downloads of the article are for private/personal use only.