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Vieraella herbstigroup is extinct

The Oldest True Frog

David Cannatella
Containing group: Salientia


Vieraella herbsti, from the Early Jurassic (188-213 my), is the earliest record of what most of us think of as a true frog. It is known only from the dorsal and ventral impressions of a single animal. The dorsal part was found in 1961 by Rafael Herbst in Santa Cruz Province, Argentina. The ventral impression (counterpart) was found just a few years later by the noted paleontologist Casamiquela. Estes and Reig (1973) reviewed the fossil material.

The frog is estimated to be 33 mm in snout-vent length. This fossil has been recently re-described by Báez and Basso (ms), who interpret the frog as having ten presacral vertebrae. Their phylogenetic analysis places it more basal than Notobatrachus + living frogs (Anura).

Ford and Cannatella (1993) defined Anura as a node-based name for the ancestor (most recent) of living frogs and all its descendants. This was done in part to associate the name with a stable taxonomic content. By this definition, then, Vieraella is not part of Anura, although it is part of the larger group Salientia.


Estes, R., and O. A. Reig. 1973. The early fossil record of frogs: a review of the evidence. Pp. 11-63 In J. L. Vial (Ed.), Evolutionary Biology of the Anurans: Contemporary Research on Major Problems. University of Missouri Press, Columbia.

Ford, L. S., and D. C. Cannatella. 1993. The major clades of frogs. Herp. Monogr. 7:94-117.

About This Page

David Cannatella
University of Texas, Austin, Texas, USA

Correspondence regarding this page should be directed to David Cannatella at

Page: Tree of Life Vieraella herbsti. The Oldest True Frog. Authored by David Cannatella. The TEXT of this page is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution License - Version 3.0. Note that images and other media featured on this page are each governed by their own license, and they may or may not be available for reuse. Click on an image or a media link to access the media data window, which provides the relevant licensing information. For the general terms and conditions of ToL material reuse and redistribution, please see the Tree of Life Copyright Policies.

Citing this page:

Cannatella, David. 1995. Vieraella herbsti. The Oldest True Frog. Version 01 January 1995 (under construction). http://tolweb.org/Vieraella_herbsti/16964/1995.01.01 in The Tree of Life Web Project, http://tolweb.org/

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