Evolution of musculoskeletal anatomy and locomotor style in frogs

Dr Laura Porro (primary)
Cell and Developmental Biology
University College London
Dr Christopher Richards (secondary)
Comparative Biomedical Sciences
Royal Veterinary College


Frogs exhibit impressively complex musculature and dramatic anatomical specialisations of the pelvis, limbs and spine, long assumed to represent adaptations for jumping. Yet many frogs employ a wide range of behaviours (walking, swimming, climbing, burrowing). Is anatomical complexity required for functional complexity? Using a novel combination of interdisciplinary and cutting-edge techniques (CT imaging and 3D visualization, musculoskeletal modelling, phylogenetic mapping) this project will determine the link between anatomy, locomotor function, and evolution in frogs, shedding light on how phylogenetic history and biomechanical function influence the origin and radiation of novel anatomical forms.


Porro and Richards. 2017. Digital dissection of the model organism Xenopus laevis using contrast-enhanced computed tomography. Journal of Anatomy. 231: 169-191.

Richards, Porro, Collings. 2017. Kinematic crontrol of extreme jump angles in the red leg running frog, Kassina maculata. Journal of Experimental Biology. 220: 1894-1904.

Porro, Collings, Eberhard, Chadwick, Richards. 2017. Inverse dynamic modelling of jumping in the red-legged running frog Kassina maculata. Journal of Experimental Biology. 220: 1882-1893.

Richards, Eberhard, Collings. 2018. The dynamic role of the ilio-sacral joint in jumping frogs. Biology Letters 14.9: 20180367.

Richards and Porro. 2018. A novel kinematics analysis method using quaternion interpolation–a case study in frog jumping. Journal of Theoretical Biology 454: 410-424.

Genes, development and STEM* approaches to biology
Area of Biology
Techniques & Approaches
EngineeringImage ProcessingMathematics / StatisticsSimulation / Modelling