Ice cold dinosaurs

When you think of fossil hunting you may think large expanses of dusty, arid plains. However, things got ice cold for UQ palaeontologist Dr Steve Salisbury who joined an expedition to Antarctica to look for fossils. And fossils he found. In fact, more than a tonne of fossils in just over 7 weeks.

“We found a lot of really great fossils,” Dr Salisbury said in one of the understatements of the year.

They explored Sandwich Bluff — which is rocky, mountainous terrain in which they more or less looked under EVERY. SINGLE. ROCK. These rocks come from the end of the Age of Dinosaurs between 71 million and 67 million years ago. These rocks were “known to contain fossils of dinosaurs and other animals that lived in Antarctica during that time”.

Dr Steve Salisbury — Antartica expedition from The University of Queensland on Vimeo.

Although they found lots of small fossils, large vertebrates were the goal. Fish bones, marine reptiles, birds, and some rare dinosaurs were among the fossils found.

The conditions were hard, working in such a harsh environment. Preparing camps and hiking to these areas took almost as much time as the field work itself.

Dr Paul Willis, our director and paleontologist, as you can expect, was enthralled by this research.

“This is an exciting area to be doing any research in and a very important area to better understand the biogeographic history of Australia and the rest of Gondwana. What is now the Antarctic Peninsula would have been one of the last connections between Australia and South America and we know it was a corridor for wildlife and plants right through the period when the rocks the Dr Salisbury is looking at were formed. So, even though now it’s the other side of the world, this research is crucial to understanding how Australians became Australians.”

For cool photos from the exhibition, check out their Flickr photos, catch up with the team’s adventures on its website or via Twitter on @antarcticdinos.


Originally published on Australia’s Science Channel: http://www.australiascience.tv/blogs/ice-cold-dinosaurs