Skeletal morphology is directly associated with habitat characteristics. To investigate the arboreal adaptation, we studied the osteological morphology of the forelimbs and the third metacarpals of arboreal frogs (Rhacophoridae and Hylidae) and non‐arboreal frogs (Bombinatoridae, Bufonidae, Megophryidae, Ranidae, and Microhylidae) using transparent specimens or X‐rays of skeletons. Our results revealed that the bony knob on the third metacarpal, which formed by a dilated and elongated lateral articular cartilage (AL) through endochondral ossification, occurred only in species of Rhacophorinae. The results of the phylogenetic comparative methods and correlation analysis strongly supported the conclusion that the bony knob is a phylogenetic independent evolution trait and had a significant correlation with the arboreal habitat. Furthermore, anatomical observation showed that a muscle adhered to the bony knob. Therefore, we speculated that the bony knob might act as an enlarged attachment point for larger or more musculatures to help with grasping. In addition, the relative length of the hand showed a significant difference between arboreal and non‐arboreal species (p = .007), suggesting that longer hands might be an arboreal adaptive trait. Overall, this study leads to a deeper understanding of the arboreal adaptation.
Acta Zoologica – Wiley
Published: Jan 1, 2018
Keywords: ; ; ; ;
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