Student Discovers Rare Fossil of Meat-Eating Amphibian

March 16, 2010

(ChattahBox)—-About 300 million years ago, before giant dinosaurs roamed the Earth, in what was then a tropical climate in Western Pennsylvania, small amphibians emerged from the water and adapted to life on land, as terrestrial meat-eating hunters. So called, trematopid amphibian fossils of that period are quite scarce with only two found from the Pennsylvanian Period; until a magnificent discovery of a third fossil in 2004 by a University of Pittsburgh student. Not only is the new trematopid fossil rare, but it’s also the first one found in Pennsylvania and paleontologists have also deemed the find evidence of a new genus and species of trematopid.

David S. Berman, curator of vertebrate paleontology with the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, together with his museum colleagues, published the amazing story behind the discovery in the publication Annals of Carnegie Museum.

Since the fossil was found on land owned by FedEx corp, the fossil was named Fedexia striegeli. The latter part of the name honors the student discoverer, Adam Striegel who picked up an interesting rock during a geology class outing, thinking it may have contained a fossil of a fern. When Striegal showed the rock to his professor Charles Jones, he realized it was something more than a rock with a mere fern embedded in it.

The pair took the fossil to the Carnegie Museum and Berman instantly realized it was a unique and surprisingly preserved fossilized skull of a trematopid, which he later determined to be a new genus.

The museum press release notes that the Fedexia striegeli, “Unlike many other fossil finds, the fossil skull remained three-dimensional and did not suffer post-mortem crushing over time by the compaction of rock formations above it. As a result, many of the anatomical features of the amphibian can still be identified:

“Anatomical features including the novel shape and size of its eye orbit size, but especially the shape of its greatly elongated external nares or nostril-like openings, among other anatomical features, identify Fedexia as a new genus and species of trematopid. The fossil suggests an animal up to 2 feet long that resembles a giant salamander.”

Striegel, now 29, is pleasantly surprised that an ancient fossil representing a new species of animal now bears his name, after he randomly picked up an interesting looking chunk of rock six-years ago. “I can’t believe my name will be known forever as this species of animal,” he said. “Who can say that they have a species of animal named after them?”


Photo Source: Mark A. Klingler/Carnegie Museum of Natural History


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