Ancient Amphibian Ancestor Named After Iconic Muppet Kermit

A well-preserved fossil of a previously unknown amphibian ancestor has been identified as Kermitops gratus, after the iconic Muppet character Kermit the Frog. The discovery was made by paleontologist Nicholas Hotton III in Texas and later studied by postdoctoral paleontologist Arjan Mann in 2021.

The Kermitops gratus lived 270 million years ago and had a skull that was just over an inch long. It belonged to a type of predecessor to modern amphibians known as temnospondyls, which existed for over 200 million years. The skull features oval eye sockets and a cartoonishly wide face and eyes that are reminiscent of Kermit’s famous puppet features.

One of the most notable aspects of this fossil is its almost complete preservation, despite some damage to the palate and braincase. Postdoctoral paleontologist Arjan Mann was impressed with the intricate details visible on the skull, such as the arrangement of palpebral ossicles, which are tiny bones in an animal’s eyelids. These details help researchers gain insights into the ancient amphibian’s anatomy, making it a unique find.

Calvin So, a doctoral student at George Washington University and lead author on the study, highlighted the significance of using Kermit’s name for this fossil. He noted that it could help bridge the gap between science and popular culture, making it more accessible and engaging for everyone. This discovery sheds light on the evolution of amphibians and provides insight into ancient creatures like Kermitops gratus.

Overall, this newfound amphibian ancestor has given researchers valuable information about our planet’s past while also bringing together science and pop culture in a fun way.

By Samantha Johnson

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