April 21, 2024

After Kermit the Frog gained worldwide fame through numerous hit films and TV shows, leading to a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, Kermit the Frog has another accolade: a 270-million-year-old fossil that was named after him.

Scientists have discovered a species of an ancient amphibian ancestor they have named Kermitops free because of his resemblance to the bright green star of The Muppet Show.

The prehistoric creatures are considered to be among the first true amphibians and represent an important evolutionary step in the transition of life from water to land.

The fossil skull of Kermit tops (left) next to a modern frog skull. Photo: Brittany M Hance/PA

The specimen was discovered four decades ago in an area of ​​Texas, USA, known as the Red Beds, but remained unexamined in the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History’s fossil collection.

Calvin So, a doctoral student at George Washington University in Washington DC, said: “The use of the name Kermit has significant implications for how we can bridge the science done by paleontologists in museums to the general public.

“Because this animal is a distant relative of today’s amphibians, and Kermit is a modern-day amphibian icon, it was the perfect name for it.”

The fossil was finally picked up in 2021 by Dr Arjan Mann, a palaeontologist at the museum, who described it as a “really well-preserved, mostly prepared skull”.

Scientists analyzed the remains of the inch-long fossilized skull with large and oval-shaped eye sockets.

Mann and his protégé, So, identified the fossil as a temnospondyl, a diverse group of ancient amphibian relatives that lived between 360m and 200m years ago.

Analysis of the skull revealed what the researchers described as a “mixture of features,” different from features seen in the skulls of older tetrapods, the four ancestors of amphibians and other living vertebrates.

They said the area of ​​the skull behind the Kermitops’ eyes was much shorter than its elongated, curved snout.

They said that these skull proportions – which probably resembled a stout salamander – would have helped Kermitops catch small grain-like insects.

The early fossil record of amphibians and their ancestors is sparse, making it difficult to understand how frogs, salamanders, and their relatives arose.

While a fossil resembling Kermit’s former wife, Miss Piggy, has yet to be discovered, the researchers said Kermitops provided clues to bridging this “huge fossil gap.”

Mann said, “This is an active area of ​​research that many more paleontologists need to dive back into. Paleontology are always more than just dinosaurs, and there are many cool evolutionary stories and mysteries still waiting to be answered.”

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