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The Kermitops Gratus: Ancient species named after Kermit the Frog

By Alek Anaya, May 2 2024—

The fan-favourite actor and singer Kermit the Frog made headlines the past two weeks when scientists named an ancient species after him. The Kermitops Gratus was bestowed with the privilege of sharing its name with the world-renowned green icon. The small amphibian was discovered by palaeontologists at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C. 

The research on the fossil began back in 2021 by PhD student Calvin So and was finally published in March of this year. Surprisingly, the fossil had been brought to the museum all the way back in 1984, which coincidentally, was the same year that The Muppets Take Manhattan was released in theatres. However, the delicate skeleton was never thoroughly explored due to the sheer amount of fossils the collection had at the time. 

The Kermitops is believed to have lived in Texas during the early Permian Epoch period somewhere between 289.8 million and 272.3 million years ago, so it is fair to say it is a bit older than Kermit. Unlike its modern-day name holder, the Kermitops was actually not a frog at all, but rather a small salamander that measured around six to seven inches (15 to 18 cm).

This discovery has the potential to reveal secrets about how modern-day amphibians such as frogs and salamanders developed the specific traits that make them unique today, more specifically, clues about the craniums of these slimy beings. This has vast scientific implications for the biological field because amphibian evolution was believed to be a very linear process, but the Kermitops now have scientists believing it could have been a multi-lineal process.

Lead author Calvin So stated that the name was chosen to get the general public excited about the discovery and scientific work in general. 

“Using the name Kermit has significant implications for how we can bridge the science that is done by palaeontologists in museums to the general public,” he said

Kermit the Frog is not the first singing icon that has an ancient species named after him, fellow rockstar Elvis Presley inspired the naming of the Elvisaurus, a Dinosaur with a crest that resembled Elvis’s iconic hairstyle. Disney colleague Bambi the deer also inspired the name for the Bambiraptor, a small carnivorous dinosaur. Did this terrifying predator sing with the forest critters as well? Probably not. 

Soon after the naming of the Kermitops Gratus The Muppets star broke the silence and published an official statement on the matter. “I don’t quite see the resemblance,” Kermit said “But Miss Piggy and the other Muppets assured me it’s uncanny!”

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