Fossil skull and modern skull comparison

Brittany M. Hance, Smithsonian.
March 21, 2024
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Fossil skull sits next to modern skull of frog against black background.
Brittany M. Hance, Smithsonian.

The fossil skull of Kermitops (left) alongside a modern frog skull (Lithobates palustris, right).

Kermitops is notable for more than just its namesake puppet persona. The early fossil record of amphibians and their ancestors is largely fragmentary, which makes it difficult to understand how frogs, salamanders and their kin originated. Adding relatives like Kermitops into the fold is essential for fleshing out the early branches of the amphibian family tree.

Scientists have uncovered the fossilized skull of a 270-million-year-old ancient amphibian ancestor in the collection of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. In a paper published today, March 21, in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, the team of researchers described the fossil as a new species of proto-amphibian, which they named Kermitops gratus in honor of the iconic Muppet, Kermit the Frog.

Note: USNM PAL 407585, Department of Paleobiology (left), and USNM 230961, Division of Amphibians and Reptiles (right), Smithsonian Institution.

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