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Kermit the Fossil: Muppet inspires ancient amphibian species |

Pet Life

Kermit the Fossil: Muppet inspires ancient amphibian species

Kristofer Purnell -
Kermit the Fossil: Muppet inspires ancient amphibian species
Kermit the Frog and the fossil that bears its name
Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History via Facebook

BORACAY, Philippines — Researchers named an amphibian species of a 270 million-year-old fossil found 40 years ago after the famous Muppet character Kermit the Frog.

The research team led by Arjan Mann and Calvin So published their findings in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, naming the species "Kermitops gratus."

The fossil was found by the late museum paleontologist Nicholas Hotton III as he excavated fossils from the United States' Red Beds area in Texas.

"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," said So. "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."

Related: Filipino muppet TJ debuts on 'Sesame Street'

The fossil, however, doesn't resemble a frog but rather more like a bony salamander, though it isn't much of an issue for Marc Jones of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History fossil amphibian collections where the fossil has been the past four decades.

"While Kermitops isn't a frog, making the name perhaps a little controversial, Kermit hasn't always been a frog either," Jones pointed out, defending his childhood idol. "In his early appearances, Kermit had a more lizard-like appearance, and he still has five fingers, rather than the four that most amphibians have."

Mann said the fossil will be able to show the origins of modern amphibians are "a little more complex" than previous research has presented before. 

This isn't the first time Kermit was an inspiration for a species name, with the extinct frog "Hensonbatrachus kermiti" named after the Muppet and his late creator Jim Henson.

Other Muppets have been the basis for several species like The Great Gonzo for a tube-dwelling spider, and Statler and Waldorf for a trilobite.

RELATED: Asian elephants mourn, bury their dead calves: study

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