Two hundred million years ago, Antarctica enjoyed a temperate climate, with forests, flowing rivers and dinosaurs.
Since then, the continent has broken away from other land masses, moved into the center of the South Pole, and become permanently icebound.Now scientists report new evidence of that warmer time in Antarctica with the discovery on a mountainside just 400 miles from the South Pole of dinosaur fossils from two different species.
William R. Hammer, a paleontologist at Augustana College in Rock Island, Ill., said Tuesday that he and his team have recovered a fossilized skull, a shoulder blade, vertebrae, some ribs and limb bones from one dinosaur.
"From the shape of the skull and the build of the femur, it looks like a moderate-sized herbivore (plant eater)," said Hammer. The animal, he said, was about 25 feet long, a moderate size for dinosaurs.
With the bones, the scientist said, his team found a 2-inch-long tooth. Hammer said it has a sharp point and a serrated edge, which is characteristic of a carnivore, or meat eater, and suggests it came from a second type of dinosaur.
Hammer speculated that a meat-eating dinosaur lost a tooth while feeding on the carcass of the herbivore.
"This is the first dinosaur find on the Antarctic mainland," he said. "It could be different from species found elsewhere."
The fossils were embedded in a rock called mudstone that was laid down by a river. At some later point, the area was uplifted with the creation of a 15,000-foot peak called Mount Kirkpatrick.