Ancient Frog Species Named After Kermit the FrogArjan Mann (right), a Smithsonian postdoctoral paleontologist and former Peter Buck Fellow, and Calvin So (left), a doctoral student at George Washington University, holding the fossil skull of Kermitops in front of the Kermit the Frog puppet display in the “Entertainment Nation” exhibition at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. Photo credit: James D. Tiller and James Di Loreto, Smithsonian. Fossil skull of Kermitops; USNM PAL 407585, Department of Paleobiology, Smithsonian Institution. Kermit the Frog puppet; 1994.0037.01, Gift of Jim Henson Productions. From the collections at National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution.

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Ancient Frog Species Named After Kermit the Frog

Kermitops gratus is named after Kermit the frog

“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.”

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George Washington University researchers have discovered and described a new species of frog that they have named after Kermit the Frog, the character who romanced Miss Piggy and was created by puppeteer Jim Henson as part of the Muppets.

The frog, named Kermitops gratus was first found by the late paleontologist Nicholas Hotton III as a single skull fossil in a layer of rock called the Clear Fork Formation, in 1984. The area in which the fossil was found is in north central Texas and is known as the Red Beds due to the rust colored rocks that date back more than 270 million years ago, during what is called the early Permian period.


In 2021, postdoctoral paleontologist Arjan Mann went through the fossils at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History when he came upon the fossil specimen, which was labeled as an early amphibian. Mann and Calvin So, a doctoral student at the George Washington University set out to determine what kind of animal it was.

Kermit the frog

Kermit the frog. Photo by Harmony Gerber/AShutterstock

“One fossil immediately jumped out at me—this really well preserved, mostly prepared skull,” Mann, who is So’s mentor and co-author of the paper describing the kermit frog, said in a statement released by the Smithsonian.

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Mann and So determined that the fossil is a group of primitive amphibian relatives called temnospondyl. These creatures lived more than 200 million years ago between the Carboniferous to the Triassic periods. The skull proved to be so unique, the scientists created a new genus for the species, Kermitops, essentially named after Kermit the Frog. The name Kermitops gratus is in honor of not only Kermit the Frog, but the species name gratus is in honor of Nicholas Hotton III and his team who unearthed the fossil.


“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,” So said in the statement. “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.”

The complete paper, “A new amphibamiform from the Early Permian of Texas elucidates patterns of cranial diversity among terrestrial amphibamiforms,” can be read on the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society website.