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9th July, 2010

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Leaping lilliputs: crash go the frogs

Jump, crash, recover, leap, splat. According to a recent report, that's the way "primitive" frogs get around on land, once again demonstrating the veracity of evolution theory. After all, it makes a lot of sense that primitive frogs - frogs that somehow (don't ask how or why) got stuck in an evolutionary rut long, long ago - would exhibit shoddy design. You can't expect any creature that has remained virtually unchanged for 200 million years or more to win a competition for ingenious design, can you? Primitive frogs ought to have problems getting around.

Evolution theorists swell with pride when they find examples of "primitive" creatures that exhibit "primitive" design, as the article suggests:

Did you ever see a frog belly flop? That's just what primitive living frogs do, according to a new study by Dr. Richard Essner, from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville in the US, and colleagues, looking at the evolution of frog jumping and landing. They found that frogs became proficient at jumping before they perfected landing. They found that although launch movements were similar among the species, primitive frogs maintained extended back legs throughout their flight and landing phases and did not land on their front legs. These belly flop landings limited their ability to jump again quickly. This unique behavior of leiopelmatids1 shows that the evolution of jumping in frogs was a two-step process with symmetrical back leg extension jumping appearing first and mid-flight back leg recovery and landing on forelimbs appearing later.

In short, these unevolved, dopey anurans (frogs and toads) are doomed to crash land after every lift off because they are living relics from the earliest days of frogdom before they had perfected the art of leaping properly. Let's analyze this supposed evidence of evolution.

We'll begin by asking why these frogs are called "primitive". Bear in mind that "primitive" in an evolutionary sense refers to an early stage in the chain of evolutionary progression. A primitive creature is opposite to an advanced creature, while a primitive feature is contrasted, in evo-lingo, with a derived feature. Why are these inefficient leapers considered especially ancient? Evolution theory is a dog forever chasing its tail. In their never-ending quest to place every species on its rightful twig on its correct branch of the fictitious tree of life, evolutionists use almost entirely subjective criteria to judge degrees of primitiveness and progressiveness. This truism is particularly well-illustrated by their attempts to figure out who's who in the frog kingdom, at which they have failed spectacularly:

Although Anura is modestly sized. the relationships of the major groups of frogs and toads have proven intractable to resolution, despite molecular, morphological, and developmental tools having been applied separately and in tandem to the problem.2

Scientists even argue energetically about whether frogs all arose from one common ancestor or whether the order has multiple points of origin! This dispute illustrates just how subjective their methods of determining origins and relationships is. You see, all studies aimed at elucidating supposed relationships pick almost entirely arbitrary characteristics as their starting point. Which provides a better guide for comparison - eyes, structure of the skull, structure of the ear, physiology of the liver, types of vertebrae, and so on? Do you study adult frogs or tadpoles? Depending on what is studied, the results vary enormously. As the above article confesses concerning results of studies with adults as compared with studies of tadpoles,

The disparities among some studies are so extraordinary that. it was as if frogs and tadpoles had evolved independently.3

Such disparities completely undermine the entire evolutionary hypothesis - but don't hold your breath waiting for advocates to admit it. One has every reason to be entirely skeptical about attempts to ascertain which features betray primitiveness and which prove modernity. In a nutshell, the features chosen to brand leiopelmatids primitive are,4

•  The number of presacral vertebrae: leiopelmatids have nine instead of the usual eight or fewer in all other frogs;
•  The remains of tail muscles, absent in other frogs;
•  The presence of free ribs which are absent in most (but not all) other frogs;
•  Amphicoelous (concave at both front and back ends) vertebral centra.

All so very, very subjective. Why the emphasis on number of vertebrae? Let Tyler explain:

This feature is considered primitive simply because frogs are believed to have evolved from animals that had longer bodies.5

The use of the extra vertebra to establish primitiveness is based on a preconceived idea! Hardly scientific, n'est ce pas? Tyler adds, concerning the remnants of tail muscles,

This muscle is thought to be a tail-wagging muscle, inferring that the adult frog has been left with the means of wagging something that it no longer possesses (p. 23).

In other words, this muscle is an evolutionary leftover. The truth of the matter is quite different:

Adults of this basal anuran species are endowed with a tail-like albeit stubby appendage. Whereas the 'tail' of A. truei has some musculature consistent with a caudal origin, it is, in fact, an intromittent organ; i.e. an unsegmented, cloacal extension that facilitates internal fertilization.6

Translation: the stumpy tail and "vestigial" tail-wagging muscles carry out a vital function in reproduction! Indeed, this feature argues for a higher degree of advancement among these frogs compared with all others. Which brings us to a vital point. Evolutionists argue consistently that evolution can go in any direction. The extra vertebra could be an advancement, not a hangover. Ditto, ditto, ditto for tail muscles, ribs and amphicoely. Indeed, the ribs of leiopelmatids are there for a vital reason, as the article about evolution of jumping acknowledges, suggesting that they are there "to prevent damage to their internal soft tissues and organs during uncontrolled landing". Isn't that amazing? These frogs that couldn't evolve swiveling legs re-jigged their ancestors' ribs to protect the internal organs against jarring at touchdown. Now that's one clever bit of compensatory evolution.

What about their hopeless hopping? Remember one vital thing; even though having a restricted distribution, the North American representative of these clumsy anurans ". is shown by experienced observers to be quite common in suitable habitats". Translate: it manages perfectly well in spite of its ungainly hop. These frogs spend most of their time in running water in perennial streams of low temperature in steep-walled valleys with dense vegetation. They never need to travel long distances. Let me predict that investigators will find some other function for their leg design that perfectly matches their lifestyle (if they haven't already done so). A penguin's wings are hopelessly inadequate for flying; should we conclude they are primitive birds, a sad leftover from their dinosaur days?

These frogs are not primitive, and their leaping is not a case of half-baked evolution. Stop it, evolutionists, please stop it. You're making me cry. You're making me laugh. You're making me hopping mad. Is it wrong for a Christian to scream?

1 Leiopelmatidae is a family of frogs with four species in New Zealand and two in North America. Hochstetter's frog from New Zealand (pic, top left) is the best-known species there. The two North American species have the common name of "tailed frogs".

2 Pugener, Maglia & Trueb 2003, Revisiting the contribution of larval characters to an analysis of phylogenetic relationships of basal anurans, Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, 139:129-155, p. 129

3 Pugener, Maglia & Trueb, p. 130

4 Stahl 1974, Vertebrate History: Problems in Evolution, p. 246

5 1976, Frogs, p. 22

6 Handrigan & Wassersug 2007, The anuran Bauplan: a review of the adaptive, developmental, and genetic underpinnings of frog and tadpole morphology, Biol. Rev. 82, pp. 1-25

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