Many modern amphibians have biphasic life cycles with aquatic larvae and terrestrial adults. The central questions are how and when this complicated ontogeny was established, and what is known about the lives of amphibians in the Paleozoic. Fossil evidence has accumulated that sheds light on the life histories of early amphibians, the origin of metamorphosis, and the transition to a fully terrestrial existence. The majority of early amphibians were aquatic or amphibious and underwent only gradual ontogenetic changes. Developmental plasticity played a major role in some taxa but was restricted to minor modification of ontogeny. In the Permo-Carboniferous dissorophoids, a condensation of crucial ontogenetic steps into a short phase (metamorphosis) is observed. It is likely that the origin of both metamorphosis and neoteny falls within these taxa. Fossil evidence also reveals the sequence of evolutionary changes: apparently, the ontogenetic change in feeding, not the transition to a terrestrial existence per se, made a drastic metamorphosis necessary.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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