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(Kenneth H. Thomas / Photo Researchers, Inc.)

Wild Things: Life as We Know It

Caterpillars, Frogs, Big Birds and More...

Observed

Leiopelmatidae
(Tui De Roy / Minden Pictures)
Name: Leiopelmatidae, a family of primitive frogs native to New Zealand.
Leap: By extending their hind legs, like other frogs.
Land: On their bellies—unlike frogs that evolved more recently, which land on four feet to absorb the shock.
Lesson: If a group of primitive frogs belly-flops, it suggests that the common ancestor of all frogs did as well. In other words, “frogs evolved jumping before they perfected landing,” according to the study by Richard Essner of Southern Illinois University and others. As for Leiopelmatidae, he says, “these guys are small, so bad landings aren’t as big of a deal.”

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