A Supercontinent Split. The Frogs Ended Up Here

Fossils in Antarctica are evidence of the breakup of Gondwana
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted May 6, 2020 10:00 AM CDT
Frogs Hopped Around Ancient Antarctica
The Chilean helmeted water toad, or Calyptocephalella gayi, is the only living species of the Calyptocephalella genus.   (Wikimedia/Jose Grau de Puerto Montt)

"Frogs, nowadays, are known on all six other continents. Now we know they were also present on the seventh." That's according to Swedish scientist Thomas Mors, whose discovery of 40-million-year-old ancient horned frog fossils in Antarctica suggests frogs were transported around the globe by the breakup of the supercontinent Gondwana, per Popular Science. The skull and pelvic bone discovered on Seymour Island match those of the South American frog genus Calyptocephalella, close relatives of which have also been found in Australia. As Mors points out, Gondwana—the name given to one half of the landmass Pangaea as it broke apart more than 230 million years ago, per Live Science—was once a mashup of modern-day South America, Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, the Indian subcontinent, Australia, and Antarctica.

"Antarctica was a perfectly accessible midway point" between South American and Australia, per Popular Science. And as Gondwana broke up, the frogs found a permanent home. The fossil represents the first evidence of a freshwater amphibian in Antarctica during the Cenozoic Era, which began 66 million years ago and continues today, according to the study published last month in Scientific Reports. Scientists believe the horned frog enjoyed a wet and temperate climate, with temperatures ranging from around 39 degrees Fahrenheit to 57 degrees. Still, the frog may have hibernated in mud during winter, reports CNN. There were "at least ephemeral ice sheets existing on the highlands within the interior of the continent," according to the study. Antarctica would freeze over some 6 million years later. (We're just beginning to understand the continent's ancient past.)

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