Over a ton of 71 million-year old dinosaur fossils have been found in Antarctica. Most of them are from prehistoric marine reptiles and birds, even ducks that lived during the Cretaceous period.
Researchers from the University of Queensland School of Biological Sciences and scientists from the United States, Australia and South Africa, found the cache while on an expedition that took lace from February to March on James Ross Island, hundreds of miles south of Chile. The expedition was funded through the National Science Foundation and the United States Antarctic Program.
Researcher Dr. Steve Salisbury, from the university, says,
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.
The research site was quite remote. The twelve-member team embarked on a journey that took them to South America. From there, they sailed to the Antarctic Peninsula. To get to shore, they took helicopters and inflatable boats to maneuver through the sea of ice, sailing through some of the roughest seas on the planet.
Dr. Salisbury says,
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.
On shore, they camped, for six weeks on Vega Island and hiked six miles over rugged terrain to reach their destination, a field site on Sandwich Bluff.
The team studied the region, conducting geological mapping, in addition to looking or fossils. The recorded the thickness of different rocks and gathered information of their representative environments. This information, in addition to that from the fossils provides insight into the living environment during that prehistoric time 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 fossils are currently in Chile and will eventually be sent to the Carnegie Museum of Natural History for further study. Due to the number of fossils found, it may take a year or two to study and catalogue them all. The researchers hope to publish their findings in a scientific journal soon.