"A once-in-a-lifetime discovery."

Funky Little Monkey

A new ancient amphibian just dropped, and this one is named for an exceptionally bizarre 1970s funk song.

Named Funcusvermis gilmorei — or "funky worm" by paleontologists at Virginia Tech, this newly-discovered little dude whose debut graces the pages of a recent issue of the Nature journal seems to plug a hole in the strange lineage of caecilians, a toothy, limbless, subterranean and honestly quite creepy type of amphibian.

As VT geoscience doctoral student and F. gilmorei co-discoverer Ben Kligman said in the school's press release, finding the funky worm's fossils was particularly exciting because researchers had for a long time been stumped as to where caecilians actually came from, with a whopping 87 million years between ancestors that, until recently, had yet to be filled.

"Seeing the first jaw under the microscope, with its distinctive double row of teeth, sent chills down my back," Kligman adorably recounted. "We immediately knew it was a caecilian, the oldest caecilian fossil ever found, and a once-in-a-lifetime discovery."

As the press release notes, the funky worm "shares skeletal features related more with early frog and salamander fossils," which may also point towards caecilians' strange origins being shared with other amphibians.

By Any Other Name

As the VT statement notes, this groovy guy was named after the Ohio Players' hilarious 1972 song "Funky Worm," which was apparently one of the study authors' favorite tunes during their 2019 dig at Arizona’s Petrified Forest National Park, where they first discovered the fossil that became F. gilmorei.

The last part of the species' scientific name, the press release notes, is meant to honor Drexel University's Ned Gilmore, a collections curator at Drexel University's Academy of Natural Sciences with whom Kligman volunteered back in the day as an undergrad.

As lead paleontologist Adam Marsh notes in the press release, the scientists' irreverent naming process fits F. gilmorei perfectly.

"As the eponymous song says," Marsh quipped, "it's the funkiest worm in the world."

More on new, ancient discoveries: Scientists Sequence DNA They Found From 2 Million Years Ago

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