Tiny frog which could fit on the end of a fingernail ‘lived at the same time as the dinosaurs’

Oldest frog in North America discovered preserved in rocks
Oldest frog in North America discovered preserved in rocks

Fossils have revealed details of a tiny frog relative which lived at the same time as the dinosaurs 216 million years ago – the oldest known in North America.

The fossil bones are thought to be from a long-extinct branch of the frog family, Chinle frogs, and date from the Late Triassic, roughly 216 million years ago.

The name of the fossil derives from where they were found, the Chinle Formation of Arizona.

Dr Michelle Stocker, an assistant professor of geosciences in the Virginia Tech College of Science, says the fossils, discovered in May 2018, underscore the importance of microfossil collection.

Stocker says, ‘This new find highlights just how much there is still to learn about the Late Triassic ecosystem, and how much we find when we just look a little closer.

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‘We’re familiar with the charismatic archosaurs from the Chinle Formation, but we know that based on other ecosystems, they should make up a small percentage of the animals that lived together.

‘With this new focus we’re able to fill in a lot of those missing smaller components with new discoveries.’

Coming from multiple individuals, the hip bones are are long and hollow, with a hip socket offset rather than centered.

The bones of the frogs show how tiny they were: Just a bit over half-an-inch long.

‘The Chinle frog could fit on the end of your finger,’ Stocker said.

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