What’s halfway between a frog and a salamander? According to Canadian researcher Jason Anderson, it’s Gerobatrachus hottoni, which walked the Earth almost 300 million years ago.
“It’s a perfect little frogamander,” says Anderson, a researcher at the University of Calgary (Reuters).
The frogamander, he says, will settle what has been a bone of some contention: whether modern amphibians, frogs and salamanders all evolved from one ancient group of temnospondyls.
The 11cm Gerobatrachus hottoni has the light, wide skull of a frog and the fused ankle bones of a salamander. Based on the rock, it seems frogs and salamanders parted ways between 240 and 275 million years ago.
Originally discovered in 1995 by a party led by Nicholas Hotton of the Smithsonian Institution, the fossil remained unstudied until Anderson’s team started work on it.
However Hotton seems to have known he was on to something, says Anderson: “With a slip of paper found with the specimen and in his handwriting is the nickname ‘Froggie.’ So he recognized the specimen for what it was immediately after he found it.” (Canadian Press).
For this reason it was named for him; Gerobatrachus hottoni means Hotton’s elderly frog…
Image: Michael W. Skrepnick