New carnivorous amphibian fossil, Fedexia striegeli, is linked to diversification of amphibians.
The Carnegie Museum of Natural History has announced the discovery of an early carnivorous, terrestrial amphibian. The new genus and species, Fedexia striegeli, lived about 70 million years before the dinosaurs did, and it’s one of the few amphibious species on the fossil record to have lived a primarily terrestrial existence so early in prehistory, according to a study published in the Annals of Carnegie Museum.
The name is a tribute to the FedEx shipping company, which owns the land near the Pittsburgh International Airport where the 5-inch-long skull was discovered, and Adam Striegel, who found F. striegeli in 2004. Striegel, then a student at the University of Pittsburgh, thought the fossil he picked up was a rock containing plant fossils.
The animal is part of an extinct family of amphibians called Trematopidae. These trematopids were a sign of what was to come. Fedexia striegeli lived during the Late Pennsylvanian Period – also dubbed the “Age of Amphibians” – at a time when Pennsylvania was rife with swamps and rainy weather, an ideal climate for amphibians.
Over time, dropping sea levels and the retention of water in polar ice caps resulted in a shift to drier, warmer weather. The terrestrial amphibian's relatives and other vertebrates that had already begun adapting to warmer climates began to diversify and flourish, unlike most other amphibians of the time. Several trematopid amphibians appear in the fossil record in the Permian Period, 20 million years after F. striegeli. This suggests that climate change was a key factor in the diversification of terrestrial amphibians.