The origin of frogs, salamanders and caecilians is controversial. McGowan published an original hypothesis on lissamphibian origins in 2002 (McGowan, 2002, Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, 135: 1-32), stating that Gymnophiona was nested inside the 'microsaurian' lepospondyls, this clade was the sister-group of a caudate-salientian-albanerpetontid clade, and both were nested inside the dissorophoid temnospondyls. We have investigated McGowan's data matrix and isagree with the scoring of 35% of the cells. All taxa and all but two characters are affected. In some cases, we have a different interpretation about correspondence between morphology and character states, or we delimit states differently (or use information that was unknown in 2002). In others, we report probable typographic errors. When these cells and characters are revised, the most parsimonious trees - now longer by almost 64% - support one of the three commonly advocated hypotheses, namely a monophyletic Lissamphibia nested, together with its sister-group Albanerpetontidae, within the temnospondyls (next to Doleserpeton) - even though we did not add any characters or taxa to the very small data matrix. This exemplifies the impact of errors in data matrices on the results of phylogenetic analyses. Adding the lysorophian Brachydectes, however, results in the Lissamphibia-Albanerpetontidae clade becoming the sister-group of Brachydectes and settling within the lepospondyls rather than the temnospondyls, thus supporting another of the previously published three hypotheses. This latter finding does not change if the recently described Gerobatrachus is also added. Finally, when Doleserpeton is interpreted as morphologically immature (which means scoring three characters as unknown instead of known), Lissamphibia and Albanerpetontidae are again nested within the 'microsaurian' lepospondyls, even though Brachydectes is not included in this analysis. This, too, does not change if Gerobatrachus is added and likewise treated as morphologically immature. Bootstrap supports are rather low under all assumptions. Such lability was to be expected from the small size of the data matrix.

Albanerpetontidae, Brachydectes, coding, continuous characters, data matrix, Gerobatrachus, Gymnophioniformes, Gymnophionomorpha, Lissamphibia, Lysorophia, morphology, ontogeny, paleontology, phylogeny, scoring, stepmatrix gap-weighting
Contributions to Zoology

Released under the CC-BY 4.0 ("Attribution") License

Naturalis journals & series

Marjanovic, D, & Laurin, M. (2008). A reevaluation of the evidence supporting an unorthodox hypothesis on the origin of extant amphibians. Contributions to Zoology, 77(3), 149–199.

Additional Files
adult.nex Final Version , 13kb
immature.nex Final Version , 13kb