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Scientists name newly discovered ancient amphibian species after Kermit the Frog

Scientists name newly discovered ancient amphibian species after Kermit the Frog
  • Scientists have discovered a new species of proto-amphibian that lived 270 million years ago.

  • They have named it the Kermitops gratus, after "The Muppet Show" character Kermit the Frog.

  • The new discovery should help scientists understand how these ancient species evolved.

Scientists say they have discovered a new species of proto-amphibian that lived 270 million years ago — and they've named it after "The Muppets Show" character Kermit the Frog.

Paleontologists at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History found the ancient amphibian ancestor's fossilized skull while searching through the museum's archives, according to a statement released by the museum.

The skull, which measures around an inch long and has "oval-shaped eye sockets," was first discovered by Nicholas Hotton III, a paleontologist and curator at the Smithsonian, in 1984.

He unearthed the skull while exploring the Red Beds, a fossil-rich rock outcrop in Texas.

During that season, Hotton discovered so many fossils that "they were not able to study them all in detail," according to the statement.

The fossil then spent nearly the next 40 years sitting in the museum's archives.

But in 2021, Arjan Mann, a postdoctoral paleontologist at the museum and a coauthor of the study, came across the skull while looking through Hotton's collection.

"One fossil immediately jumped out at me — this really well preserved, mostly prepared skull," Mann said in the statement.

The researchers determined that the fossil was a temnospondyl, a type of amphibian that resembled a giant toad.

But it had unique features — the part of the skull where the animal's eye sockets were "much shorter than its elongated snout," leading them believe it was a new genus — Kermitops gratus.

Scientists think that the animal likely "resembled a stout salamander."

Their findings are detailed in a study published Wednesday in the Zoological Journal.

The lead author of the study, Calvin So, a doctoral student at George Washington University, said in the statement: "Using the name Kermit has significant implications for how we can bridge the science that is 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," he said.

"Kermitops offers us clues to bridge this huge fossil gap and start to see how frogs and salamanders developed these really specialized traits," So added.

Read the original article on Business Insider