An extract on #theglobewanderer
The earliest amphibians evolved in the Devonian period from sarcopterygian fish with lungs and bony-limbed fins, features that were helpful in adapting to dry land. They diversified and became dominant during the Carboniferous and Permian periods, but were later displaced by reptiles and other vertebrates. Over time, amphibians shrank in size and decreased in diversity, leaving only the modern subclass Lissamphibia.
The three modern orders of amphibians are Anura (the frogs and toads), Urodela (the salamanders), and Apoda (the caecilians). The number of known amphibian species is approximately 7,000, of which nearly 90% are frogs. The smallest amphibian (and vertebrate) in the world is a frog from New Guinea (Paedophryne amauensis) with a length of just 7.7 mm (0.30 in). The largest living amphibian is the 1.8 m (5 ft 11 in) Chinese giant salamander (Andrias davidianus), but this is dwarfed by the extinct 9 m (30 ft) Prionosuchus from the middle Permian of Brazil. The study of amphibians is called batrachology, while the study of both reptiles and amphibians is called herpetology.
Many amphibians catch their prey by flicking out an elongated tongue with a sticky tip and drawing it back into the mouth before seizing the item with their jaws. Some use inertial feeding to help them swallow the prey, repeatedly thrusting their head forward sharply causing the food to move backwards in their mouth by inertia. Most amphibians swallow their prey whole without much chewing so they possess voluminous stomachs. The short oesophagus is lined with cilia that help to move the food to the stomach and mucus produced by glands in the mouth and pharynx eases its passage. The enzyme chitinase produced in the stomach helps digest the chitinous cuticle of arthropod prey.
Amphibians possess a pancreas, liver and gall bladder. The liver is usually large with two lobes. Its size is determined by its function as a glycogen and fat storage unit, and may change with the seasons as these reserves are built or used up. Adipose tissue is another important means of storing energy and this occurs in the abdomen (in internal structures called fat bodies), under the skin and, in some salamanders, in the tail.
There are two kidneys located dorsally, near the roof of the body cavity. Their job is to filter the blood of metabolic waste and transport the urine via ureters to the urinary bladder where it is stored before being passed out periodically through the cloacal vent. Larvae and most aquatic adult amphibians excrete the nitrogen as ammonia in large quantities of dilute urine, while terrestrial species, with a greater need to conserve water, excrete the less toxic product urea. Some tree frogs with limited access to water excrete most of their metabolic waste as uric acid.