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Investigation of the Polar Dinosaur

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Investigation of the Polar Dinosaur

Today we know through the evidence of fossils that dinosaur and other large reptiles once lived on every continent on earth. If you were a paleontologist in charge of finding fossils where would you look first? In the search for evidence the icy continent of Antarctica would be perhaps the last continent you would think to search. However, during the last twenty years a remarkable number of prehistoric fossils have been found in regions close to the South Pole. Beginning in 1960 with an expedition lead by a man named Spitzbergen, fossilized footprints from non-avian dinosaur showed the region once had a drastically different climate. In the years that followed more fossilized remains were collected in costly expeditions, often to remote areas near the north and South Pole. However, each find can present unique information about physiological adaptations various forms of life made to polar latitude temperatures during the Mesozoic era. An article “Polar Dinosaurs” by Thomas H. Rich in Science, published in February of 2002, explores the fossil evidence and presents the following ideas about the environment and the types of creatures who lived and adapted to the seasonal conditions present at these polar latitudes.

The ice fields of the North Slope of Alaska we know today are thought to have had temperatures ranging from 13-2 degrees Celsius during the Cretaceous period. This hypothesis is based on evidence from flowering plants, and leaf fossils found from the late Cretaceous found in the region. So life around the poles existed in a climate similar to that of Portland, Oregon, which has a mean temperature of 12 degrees, and may have gotten as cold as Alberta Canada’s average of ...

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...uld have probably been impossible for life in the Antarctic where a large seaway eventually developed cutting southeastern Australia from Antarctica.

The investigation of polar dinosaurs continues with the excavation of a new site in northern Alaska near the Colville River. Paleontologists have discovered a huge, 100 km, slab of rock that spans the last 40 million years of the Mesozoic era. Exploration of this site through tunneling is believed to present a more extensive record of polar dinosaurs as they were over the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods. (1)

Works Cited

1) Rich, T.H., P. Vickers-Rich & R.A. Gangloff, February 2002, Polar Dinosaurs. Science 295:979-980.

2) Mayell, Hillary, Researchers Melt Polar Dinosaur Mysteries, National Geographic, Febuary 2002, http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2002/02/0225_0225_polardinos.html
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