When studying animals, biologists need a common language, a taxonomy. But with amphibians, the tree of life hadn't been updated since the 1930s.
Biologist Darrel Frost of the American Museum of Natural History and colleagues have finally tackled the task. A new image gallery tells the story of the project and highlights some of the colorful and slithering species involved.
The researchers say the work has radically revised understanding of amphibian evolution.
"The new amphibian tree of life shows that the taxonomy up to this point has been hopelessly flawed and provides us with a new taxonomy that offers the scientific community a new starting place from which to address questions about amphibian biodiversity," Frost said.
The number of recognized amphibian species has grown enormously in recent years, but knowledge was in many cases speculative. However, individual amphibian populations have undergone massive declines in some cases due to habitat loss and the fragmentation of populations.
The new tree was based on DNA and other data from 522 amphibian species, with equal samples of frogs, snake-like caecilians, and salamanders and newts.