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Ocular lens morphology is influenced by ecology and metamorphosis in frogs and toads

Cite this dataset

Thomas, Kate et al. (2022). Ocular lens morphology is influenced by ecology and metamorphosis in frogs and toads [Dataset]. Dryad.


The shape and relative size of an ocular lens affects the focal length of the eye, with consequences for visual acuity and sensitivity. Lenses are typically spherical in aquatic animals with camera-type eyes and axially flattened in terrestrial species to facilitate vision in optical media with different refractive indices. Frogs and toads (Amphibia: Anura) are ecologically diverse, with many species shifting from aquatic to terrestrial ecologies during metamorphosis. We quantified lens shape and relative size using 179 microCT scans of 126 biphasic anuran species and tested for correlations with life stage, environmental transitions, adult habits and adult activity patterns. Across broad phylogenetic diversity, tadpole lenses are more spherical than those of adults. Biphasic species with aquatic larvae and terrestrial adults typically undergo ontogenetic changes in lens shape, whereas species that remain aquatic as adults tend to retain more spherical lenses after metamorphosis. Further, adult lens shape is influenced by adult habit; notably, fossorial adults tend to retain spherical lenses following metamorphosis. Finally, lens size relative to eye size is smaller in aquatic and semiaquatic species than other adult ecologies. Our study demonstrates how ecology shapes visual systems, and the power of non-invasive imaging of museum specimens for studying sensory evolution.


This dataset includes measurements of the eyes and lenses of anuran amphibians. All measurements were collected from CT scans of frogs and tadpoles from fluid-preserved natural history collections. Raw scan data have been uploaded to MorphoSource ( and unique identification numbers for these media are included in the dataset. Please see the scientific paper associated with this dataset for details on the methods used to collect data and the interpretation of the shape metrics reported.


Natural Environment Research Council, Award: NE/R002150/1

National Science Foundation, Award: DEB #1655751

National Science Foundation, Award: NSF #PRFB-1611752

Inlaks Shivdasani Foundation