- WELLINGTON (Reuters) - Geologists
have discovered the fossilized remains of massive dinosaurs in Antarctica,
signs that many prehistoric "eating machines" were spread over
a much broader territory than previously believed.
- An expedition to the remote Antarctica Peninsula and
nearby islands has unearthed large deposits of dinosaur fossils, including
remains of two types of large marine reptile -- mosasaurs and plesiosaurus.
- The leader of the expedition which unearthed them in
January, Dr Jim Martin from the Museum of Geology in South Dakota, presented
the group's findings at a symposium on Antarctica Earth Sciences in Wellington
- Martin said the big surprises had been the concentration
of remains found as well as evidence of great diversity of species and
a much warmer climate in the polar region.
- The number of mosasaurs was especially striking.
- "Mosasaurs were just fantastic animals, some of
them were up to 10 meters long, maybe more, they were armed with teeth
that were three or four inches long. The skulls would easily be a meter
- "They were eating machines, that were designed to
eat anything and they did."
- To have revealed remains of at least four different species
among the complete vertebrae, partial skeletons, whole jaws and teeth in
the find was unexpected in such a remote locality.
- "To find a whole bunch of them like this is really
surprising. We were expecting to find maybe one little bone fragment, but
here were at least four different kinds of mosasaurs," he said.
- One type, Plioplatecarpus, is believed to have been adapted
to relatively shallow water and its discovery in Antarctica suggests the
continental masses were once much closer, with connecting marine corridors.
- "We also found a duck-billed dinosaur known as a
hadrosaur on Vega Island. This was even more of a surprise.
- "We had always thought of them as a North American
dinosaur. This suggests that North America, South America and Antarctica
were connected at the end of the Age of Dinosaurs."
- Martin said the creatures probably came to Antarctica
in the late Cretaceous period, some 75 to 80 million years ago.
- He said his colleagues on the expedition, Judd Case and
Mike Woodburne, had hypothesized that marsupials now found in Australia
actually got there from North America by travelling the length of South
America, across Antarctica, and into Australia before the continents split
- Martin's expedition was sponsored by the US National
Science Foundation and Argentina's Instituto Antarctico.