A team of 12 scientists hailing from Australia, the United States and South Africa have uncovered a dinosaur-age treasure trove of fossils in Antarctica. The remains, a whole ton of them, are between 67 million and 71 million years old, with some of the oldest of them dating back to the Cretaceous era. According to the paleontologists, they could provide clues about the last dinosaurs to have walked the earth.
Reportedly, the fossils were discovered by accident at the James Ross Island, a large island located on the southeast side of Antarctica. Alongside remains of dinosaurs, fossils of marine reptiles, such as mosasaurs and plesiosaurs, as well as other animals were also discovered.
The James Ross Island was chosen for the expedition because of its potential to make finding such fossils easier, as it is one of the few spots in Antarctica to be uncovered in summer. Still, the researchers had to work their way into Antarctica’s ice, using an icebreaker and Zodiac boats, with some precious aid coming from two helicopters.
The fact that Antarctica hides fossils pertaining to dinosaur-era animals should not come as a surprise, as its cooling down happened relatively “recently”, only 25 million years ago. Before that, around 170 million years ago, Antarctica was part of the supercontinent called Gondwana and had a tropical climate. As such, it was covered in large forests and hosted a large number of animals.
The fossils, currently deposited in Chile, await their next destination, Pennsylvania’s Carnegie Museum of Natural History, for further study. According to the researchers, finding the treasure trove of fossils is just the beginning. Studies are expected to last for at least a one year, with the first results estimated to be published within two years. The exciting part? Once the fossils reach the museum, they will be cleaned and studied in its labs, which are accessible to the public through large glass walls.
Although the discovery is still pretty recent – the paleontologists visited Antarctica earlier this year – they are already eager to go back and bring back more such remains, which is expected to aid their research into dinosaurs and further provide clues about how climate change affects large mammals.
Image source: Wikipedia