Researchers have discovered a treasure trove of fossils in Antarctica as they have unearthed over a ton of 71 million-year-old dinosaur fossils.
According to researchers, most of them belonged to prehistoric marine reptiles, birds and even ducks that inhabited the now-icy continent over 71 million years ago.
During an expedition that took place from February to March on James Ross Islands, hundreds of miles south of Chile, a joint group of researchers from the University of Queensland School of Biological Sciences and scientists from the United States, Australia, and South Africa discovered over a ton of 71 million-year-old dinosaur fossils
Speaking about the discovery, Dr. Steve Salisbury said: “We went there because it is one of the few parts of Antarctica when in summer, rocks are exposed and for us it is a good spot for us to go because those rocks come from the end of the age of dinosaurs.”
Located in a highly remote place, the group of researchers composed of 12 scientists embarked on a lifetime journey that took them to the Southernmost reaches of America. From there, they traveled to one of the most mysterious parts of our planet, the Antarctic Peninsula. In order to get to shore, helicopters and inflatable boards were used to make way through the sea of ice, sailing across one of the most dangerous seas on the Planet.
Dr. Salisbur added: “Crossing the Drake Passage can be kind of rough- some of the biggest seas in the world occur in that area – so most of us just hunkered down for the time we were crossing it.”
The journey was hard, they camped for a period of six weeks on Vega Island and eventually hiked over 7 kilometers over nearly inaccessible terrain to reach their destination, a site located on Sandwich Bluff.
The group of scientists conducted geological mapping survey and studied the region before analyzing the fossils. Among other research, researchers recorded the composition of rocks and gathered details of their representative environments. All of this allowed them to better understand the living environment present in the region during the particular prehistoric period.
Dr. Salisbury explains: “We found a lot of really great fossils. The rocks that we were focusing on come from the end of the age of dinosaurs, so most of them are between 71 million and 67 million years old. They were all shallow marine rocks, so the majority of things we found lived in the ocean. We did find a lot of marine reptile remains, so things like plesiosaurs and mosasaurs – a type of marine lizard made famous by the recent film Jurassic World.”
The sheer amount of fossils obtained from the mission are not located in Chile and will eventually be sent to the Carnegie Museum of Natural History for further analysis. Researchers believe that due to a large number of fossils discovered in Antarctica, it will possibly take up to two years to study and catalog all.
Around 170 million years ago, Antarctica was part of the supercontinent called Gondwana. Around 25 million years ago, Antarctica as we know it, gradually broke apart from Gondwana.
According to research, during its long history, Antarctica was located farther north and experienced a tropical or temperate climate, meaning that it was covered in forests, and inhabited by various ancient life forms.
We can expect a study published in a scientific journal soon.