Skeletal morphology and postmetamorphic ontogeny of Acris crepitans (Anura: Hylidae): A case of miniaturization in frogs



Acris crepitans is a small, semiaquatic member of the treefrog family Hylidae. Much recent attention has been paid to this species because of reports of population declines and malformations, yet few works have considered the skeletal anatomy of this common North American frog. Herein, we provide a detailed description of the morphology and adult ontogeny of the skeleton of A. crepitans, and discuss novel morphologies, interesting postmetamorphic developmental patterns, and intraspecific skeletal variation. The reduced amount of adult ossification, as well as several novel morphologies present in this species, are consistent with patterns of miniaturization seen in other anurans. For example, the skull is poorly ossified, but most of the cranial cartilages are heavily mineralized, the nasal bones are fused to endochondral ossification of the tectum nasi, the palatines are reduced, and the prootics and exoccipitals are not fused to one another (although the prootics are well-developed and ornamented). In addition, several specimens exhibit abnormalities, which might indicate that: (1) the population was under an acute malformation outbreak, (2) a high incidence of small skeletal malformations is normal in this species, (3) the population is under stress because of habitat fragmentation, (4) there is environmental deterioration in the region where the specimens were collected, and/or (5) the species is now showing signs of decline in southern Missouri. Regardless of the cause, it is clear that further examination of skeletal variability in A. crepitans, including ossification patterns and the frequency of abnormalities, is warranted. J. Morphol., 2007. © 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.