The Jeuns

‘Emerging Amphibian Species from 270 Million Years Ago Offers Clues to Frog Evolution’

March 22, 2024 | by The Jeuns

Scientists have made a groundbreaking discovery of a new ancient amphibian species that could provide vital insights into the development of modern-day frogs and salamanders. The fossilized skull of this 270-million-year-old amphibian ancestor was initially found in 1984 in Texas but remained unstudied until recently when a team at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History began investigating it.

Named Kermitops gratus in a nod to the beloved character Kermit the Frog, the findings of this unique species were published in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society. Lead author Calvin So, a doctoral student at George Washington University, highlighted the significance of engaging the public with this discovery through the familiar name of Kermit.

The fossil, belonging to a type of temnospondyl, shows distinctive features such as large eye sockets, an elongated snout, and evidence of a diet consisting of grubs and small insects. Despite similarities to modern amphibians, Kermitops has some differences, such as palpebral bones and a unique tooth structure not found in present-day species.

The study of Kermitops sheds light on the evolutionary history of amphibians, providing crucial information on the development of specialized traits seen in frogs and salamanders today. This discovery offers a valuable opportunity to bridge the gap in understanding how these ancient creatures evolved into their modern counterparts.

The research team at the Smithsonian acknowledged the challenges of studying amphibian evolution due to the fragile nature of their bones but expressed optimism that Kermitops could help overcome some of these obstacles. By unraveling the mysteries of this ancient species, scientists hope to uncover key insights into the evolutionary path of frogs and salamanders.

This exciting discovery not only contributes to scientific knowledge but also engages the public in the fascinating world of paleontology. As the mysteries of Kermitops continue to unfold, it promises to deepen our understanding of the rich history of amphibians and their ancestors.


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