Publication details

Congolius, a new genus of African reed frog endemic to the central Congo: A potential case of convergent evolution



Year of publication 2021
Type Article in Periodical
Magazine / Source Scientific Reports
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Science

Keywords article; body build; cladistics; Congo; controlled study; convergent evolution; morphological trait; new genus; paraphyly; phenotype; rain forest; taxon
Description The reed frog genus Hyperolius (Afrobatrachia, Hyperoliidae) is a speciose genus containing over 140 species of mostly small to medium-sized frogs distributed in sub-Saharan Africa. Its high level of colour polymorphism, together with in anurans relatively rare sexual dichromatism, make systematic studies more difficult. As a result, the knowledge of the diversity and taxonomy of this genus is still limited. Hyperolius robustus known only from a handful of localities in rain forests of the central Congo Basin is one of the least known species. Here, we have used molecular methods for the first time to study the phylogenetic position of this taxon, accompanied by an analysis of phenotype based on external (morphometric) and internal (osteological) morphological characters. Our phylogenetic results undoubtedly placed H. robustus out of Hyperolius into a common clade with sympatric Cryptothylax and West African Morerella. To prevent the uncovered paraphyly, we place H. robustus into a new genus, Congolius. The review of all available data suggests that the new genus is endemic to the central Congolian lowland rain forests. The analysis of phenotype underlined morphological similarity of the new genus to some Hyperolius species. This uniformity of body shape (including cranial shape) indicates that the two genera have either retained ancestral morphology or evolved through convergent evolution under similar ecological pressures in the African rain forests.
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