An international team of researchers, including University of Queensland scientist Dr. Steve Salisbury, have found a treasure trove of dinosaur fossils in the heart of Antarctica.
The majority of the fossils, weighing in at more than a tonne, are from ancient aquatic birds and reptiles, along with a mosasaurus, the carnivorous lizard featured in Jurassic World.
It’s hoped the 71 million-year-old bones will reveal clues on how the animals went extinct.
“A lot of the bigger bones will need quite a bit of preparation before we can do much research on them, it may be a year or two before we get the results out,” Dr. Salisbury said.
“What we found or didn’t find isn’t as important as the fact that we were actually there, trying to do it. If that inspires other people to get into the hunt for fossils, then I’ll be very excited.”
Dr. Steve Bradbury on the Antarctic expedition [Image: University of Queensland/Flickr]
The team also conducted geological mapping in the region, hoping to create a picture of what Antarctica’s environment and vegetation were like millions of years ago.
Today, lichens, mosses, and terrestrial algae are among the few species of vegetation that grow in Antarctica. More of this vegetation grows in the northern and coastal regions of Antarctica, while the interior has little if any vegetation.
The ocean, however, teems with fish and other marine life. In fact, the waters surrounding Antarctica are among the most diverse on the planet.
A selection of fossils discovered during the expedition [Image: University of Queensland/Flickr]
One of the apex predators in Antarctica is the leopard seal. The leopard seal is one of the most aggressive of all marine predators. This 3-metre, 400-kilogram animal has unusually long, sharp teeth, which it uses to tear into prey such as penguins and fish.
The most familiar animal of Antarctica is probably the penguin. They have adapted to the cold, coastal waters. Their wings serve as flippers as they “fly” through the water in search of prey such as squid and fish. Their feathers retain a layer of air, helping them keep warm in the freezing water.