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Ancient Amphibian Ancestor Named After Iconic Muppet Kermit

Postdoctoral paleontologist Arjan Mann rediscovered the fossil of Kermitops gratus in 2021, impressed by its almost complete preservation. The skull features oval eye sockets and a cartoonishly wide face and eyes that are reminiscent of the famous Muppet character, Kermit the Frog. Despite some damage to the palate and braincase, the skull still showed intricate details like the arrangement of palpebral ossicles, tiny bones in an animal’s eyelids. This attention to detail in the fossil adds to its uniqueness and gives researchers a glimpse into the ancient amphibian’s anatomy.

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 ancestor. He noted that it could help bridge the gap between science and public engagement, making it more accessible and relatable for everyone. This discovery sheds light on the evolution of amphibians and provides insights into interesting features of ancient creatures like Kermitops gratus.

The proto-amphibian lived 270 million years ago and was found in Texas by paleontologist Nicholas Hotton III. It had a skull that was just over an inch long, making it similar in size to modern frogs but larger than some salamanders. The well-preserved fossil shows that this ancestor had temnospondyl features, which made them predecessors to modern amphibians that existed for over 200 million years.

By Samantha Jones

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