Terrestrialization, the evolution of non-aquatic oviposition, and miniaturization, the evolution of tiny adult body size, are recurring trends in amphibian evolution, but the relationships among the traits that characterize these phenomena are not well understood. Furthermore, these traits have been identified as possible "key innovations" that are predicted to increase rates of speciation in those lineages in which they evolve. We examine terrestrialization and miniaturization in sub-Saharan puddle frogs (Phrynobatrachidae) in a phylogenetic context to investigate the relationship between adaptation and diversification through time. We use relative dating techniques to ascertain if character trait shifts are associated with increased diversification rates, and we evaluate the likelihood that a single temporal event can explain the evolution of those traits. Results indicate alternate reproductive modes evolved independently in Phrynobatrachus at least seven times, including terrestrial deposition of eggs and terrestrial, non-feeding larvae. These shifts towards alternate reproductive modes are not linked to a common temporal event. Contrary to the "key innovations" hypothesis, clades that exhibit alternate reproductive modes have lower diversification rates than those that deposit eggs aquatically. Adult habitat, pedal webbing and body size have no effect on diversification rates. Though these traits putatively identified as key innovations for Phrynobatrachus do not seem to be associated with increased speciation rates, they may still provide opportunities to extend into new niches, thus increasing overall diversity.
Puddle frogs (Anura: Phrynobatrachidae) are one of the most species-rich sub-Saharan amphibian groups, occupying an extraordinarily diverse range of habitats. We construct the first phylogeny of puddle frogs, utilizing mitochondrial (12S rRNA, valine-tRNA, and 16S rRNA) and nuclear (RAG-1) DNA. Phylogenetic analyses are conducted using separate and combined partitions under maximum parsimony, maximum likelihood, and Bayesian criterion. Monophyly of the Phrynobatrachidae is well supported, and three major clades of Phrynobatrachus are identified. We reconstructed a biogeographic history using habitat preference, elevation, and geographic distribution. Habitat niches appear to be conserved between sister species, with the majority of species favoring forest over savanna habitats and the most recent common ancestor of the Phrynobatrachidae reconstructed as a forest species. Analyses of elevational data identify three independent colonizations of highland regions, one in each of the three major clades. Ancestral reconstructions support an East African origination of puddle frogs. Most species are restricted to one of five sub-Saharan regions and are distributed within the Eastern, Central, and Western zones with far fewer species in Southern Africa. These results elucidate the complex patterns of spatial niche partitioning that have contributed to the diversification of this widely distributed, sub-Saharan genus.