Dinosaur Fossils in Antarctica
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Millions and millions of years ago the continents lay together as one super-continent known as Pangea. As time went on and the plates underneath the Earth began to separate, the continents land moved towards the poles where glaciation occurred. Glaciation is the process in which glaciers were formed during the ice age. Glaciation causes a drop in temperature which in turn causes water to freeze and form many layers of ice (http://palaeo.gly.bris.ac.uk/Palaeofiles/Permian/intro.html, 1). Due to this layering of ice that has occurred at both poles it has not been easy to discover new dinosaur fossils. However, in a press release of the National Science Foundation researchers, working in two distinct sites of Antarctica found what seem to be fossil remains of two different dinosaurs that had previously never been introduced to the world of science (http://www.nsf.gov/od/lpa/newsroom/pr.cfm?ni=52, 1).
The two different dinosaurs were found in opposite areas of Antarctica. The first dinosaur found was uncovered on the James Ross Island off the coast of the Antarctic Peninsula while the second dinosaur was discovered on the Antarctic interior on a mountain elevating nearly 3900 meters near the Beardmore Glacier. The discovery of these two dinosaurs was important for a couple reasons. First off, dealing with the dinosaur carnivorous dinosaur found off the James Ross Island the discovery was important was because not many dinosaurs from the Cretaceous Time Period had been uncovered in Antarctica. The second reason the finding of this fossil was important was because in the James Ross region of the Antarctic Peninsula there had previously only been six uncovered dinosaur fossils and this finding adds to that number. Lastly, it is a very uncommon to find a dinosaur that was so well preserved considering it died roughly 70 million years ago. In order for it to be in such good shape it had to float out to sea and lie in the bottom of what was then an extremely shallow part of the Weddell Sea (www.sciencedaily.com, 2). When it comes to the plant-eating dinosaur found on the interior of Antarctica the discovery of this dinosaur was also important because of its rarity. William Hammer, who led the research team said from Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois said, “This site is so far removed geographically from any site near its age, it’s clearly a new dinosaur to Antarctica.
” He continued to comment on the low number of dinosaur specimens that had been found on Antarctica and anything found on the continent is new to science. For these various reasons the discoveries were important and added something new to science (www.sciencedaily.com, 3).
Both fossil finds are new discoveries on the southernmost continent of Antarctica. The first dinosaur fossil encountered is believed to have been a carnivore that roamed the Earth towards the end of the Cretaceous Period which lasted from 144 million years ago to 65 million years ago which is part of the Mesozoic Era that lasted from 245 million years ago to 65 million years ago. Evidence of this dinosaur included fragments of the jaw, teeth structures, and most of the lower body bones that would make this dinosaur part of the theropod group, which includes tyrannosaurs and other meat eating dinosaurs. The shape and length of the lower body bones found indicated that the dinosaur walked and ran on two feet and was about 6 to 8 feet tall (www.sciencedaily.com, 2). This period, known as the second half of the “Age of Dinosaurs” doesn’t produce many fossils in the Antarctic. This fossil find, which was founded by James Martin and Judd Case, will be the second carnivorous find of this period in Antarctica (http://www.nsf.gov/od/lpa/newsroom, 2).
The second dinosaur finding is pretty much the exact opposite of the first. This dinosaur that was found on the interior of Antarctica was believed to be a plant-eating sauropod. This fossil finding, which was comprised of the pelvis of a primitive sauropod, was found in solid rock. The pelvis that was found was believed to be approximately one meter across and was believed to be one of the primitive sauropods that walked the Earth approximately 200 million years ago. Other bones were taken from the excavation and the team believed that the creature found was believed to be between six to seven feet tall and as long as nine meters (http://www.nsf.gov/od/lpa/newsroom/pr.cfm?ni=52, 3).
The scientists were able to estimate what era the dinosaur fossils may have been from because of various bone structure and objects surrounding the fossil site. William Hammer, who led the excavation of the dinosaur that was found on the interior of Antarctica, said that rocks surrounding the fossil site and the shape of the bones excavated at the site helped the team estimate that the dinosaur lived about 200 million years ago. The first dinosaur that was found on the James Ross Island was estimated to have lived during the Cretaceous Period which lasted from 144 million years ago to 65 million years ago. Unlike the techniques used by William Hammer and his research team, Judd Case and James Martin and their research team used other methods to estimate the lifetime of this carnivorous dinosaur. First off, they looked at materials surrounding the fossil site such as rocks, twigs, and other sediment that was still preserved to estimate the lifetime. They also were able to estimate the time period in which the dinosaur roamed the Earth by looking at the terrain and climate and linking those conditions to the conditions of the Pacific Northwest and completely different than they are today. Through the use of these two methods the team was able to establish the estimated time period the carnivore roamed Antarctica (www.sciencedaily.com, 2-3).
According to the article it says that if the carnivorous dinosaur is confirmed that it will only be the second Antarctic theropod from the last portion of the Cretaceous period. This brings about the question of whether or not they actually found what the remains of a dinosaur from that period are (www.sciencedaily.com, 3). It seems like a once in a lifetime finding and if it is a dinosaur finding it seems to be a very important one for science. On that subject William Hammer says, “We have so few dinosaur specimens from the whole continent, compared to any other place, that almost anything we find down there is new to science.” It could show them how dinosaurs lived and survived in that frigid climate and how they may have evolved over time.
In conclusion, both dinosaur findings have something very interesting and new to contribute to science. It is rather rare and uncommon to find one let alone two dinosaur fossils in two distinct locations at the same time. These two findings will hopefully help scientists piece together and help them further understand how dinosaurs evolved and lived in the Antarctic region of the world.
“Evidence of a ‘Lost World’: Antarctica Yields Two Unknown Dinosaur Species.” http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/02/040227070848.htm. 27 Feb 2004.
“Evidence of a ‘Lost World’: Antarctica Yields Two Unknown Dinosaur Species.”
http://www.nsf.gov/od/lpa/newsroom/pr.cfm?ni=52. 24 Feb 2004.
Goodwin, Anna and Jon Wyles and Alex Morley. “The Permo-Triassic extinction.” http://palaeo.gly.bris.ac.uk/Palaeofiles/Permian/intro.html. University of Bristol 2001.