Sauropod dinosaur discovery in Antarctica

Scaled restoration of the giant titanosaur Puertasaurus by Nima Sassani

From Springer publishers:

Plant-eating dinosaur discovered in Antarctica

First record of a sauropod dinosaur in Antarctica suggests more widespread distribution of this species than previously thought

For the first time, the presence of large bodied herbivorous dinosaurs in Antarctica has been recorded. Until now, remains of sauropoda – one of the most diverse and geographically widespread species of herbivorous dinosaurs – had been recovered from all continental landmasses, except Antarctica. Dr. Ignacio Alejandro Cerda, from CONICET in Argentina, and his team’s identification of the remains of the sauropod dinosaur suggests that advanced titanosaurs (plant-eating, sauropod dinosaurs) achieved a global distribution at least by the Late Cretaceous.

Their work has just been published online in Springer’s journal, Naturwissenschaften – The Science of Nature.

Sauropoda is the second most diverse group of dinosaurs, with more than 150 recognized species. It includes the largest terrestrial vertebrates that ever existed. Although many sauropod remains have been discovered in North and South America, Africa, Asia, Australia and Europe, there is no previous record of sauropoda in Antarctica. Other important dinosaur discoveries have been made in Antarctica in the last two decades – principally in the James Ross Basin.

Dr. Cerda and colleagues report the first finding of a sauropod dinosaur from this continent and provide a detailed description of an incomplete middle-tail vertebra, recovered from James Ross Island. The specific size and morphology of the specimen, including its distinctive ball and socket articulations, lead the authors to identify it as an advanced titanosaur.

These titanosaurs originated during the Early Cretaceous and were the predominant group of sauropod dinosaurs until the extinction of all non-bird dinosaurs at the end of the Cretaceous. Although they were one of the most widespread and successful species of sauropod dinosaurs, their origin and dispersion are not completely understood.

The authors conclude: “Our discovery, and subsequent report, of these sauropod dinosaur remains from Antarctica improves our current knowledge of the dinosaurian faunas during the Late Cretaceous on this continent.”

See also here.

Oldest Dinosaur Nursery Found: Photos: here.

For the longest time, most scientists believed it wasn’t possible to accurately measure the body temperature of dinosaurs. They could only make educated guesses by, for example, calculating how fast the creatures ran based on the spacing of their tracks, or from measuring the growth rates of their bones. How warm (or cold) these long extinct creatures were remained an enduring mystery — until now: here.

Tracking Antarctica’s sea ice: here.

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25 thoughts on “Sauropod dinosaur discovery in Antarctica

  1. Wednesday, 11 January 2012, 12:21 pm

    Press Release: Environment and Conservation Organisations of NZ

    Ross Sea threatened by another fishing vessel disaster

    The Korean fishing vessel on fire (the Jung Woo 2) is the second fishing vessel in trouble this season in the special Ross Sea area of Antarctica say the Environment and Conservation Organisations of NZ (ECO).

    Fishing in the Ross Sea is inherently risky because of the ice conditions and both the environment and the fishing crews are being put at risk, says ECO Co-Chair Cath Wallace. “This is an area that has been marked out by the international community for particular protection.”

    “This is the third vessel in serious trouble in the Ross Sea in two years.”

    Cath Wallace said the Korean vessel is fishing for toothfish, a high market value species sold to wealthy people eating at restaurants in the USA. “Fishing crews are being put at extreme risk from fishing in extreme conditions.”

    The Ross Sea has been identified by several international processes as one of the last largely intact large ocean ecosystems that needs protection. Both the Antarctic Treaty System’s Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) and the IUCN, the global body for conservation have identified the Ross Sea as needing protection. It is time this protection was provided, said Barry Weeber for ECO.

    Cath Wallace said removing the toothfish is unbalancing the ecosystem and is putting the Ross Sea at risk from inevitable marine accidents. “The international community would be much better served if the Ross Sea were protected and the natural values given priority over market values.”

    Companies fish in the Ross Sea for a couple of months a year but the crews, the environment and the Search and Rescue authorities carry the risks. It is dreadful that three crew are missing and that others were at risk on this boat.

    For the second time in a season New Zealand search and rescue authorities are having to mobilise to help fishing crews in the Ross Sea where New Zealand. The risks and losses do not stack up when you consider the value of human life and the environment, said Cath Wallace of ECO.



    Dutch laboratories depart for Antarctica

    Posted on Jan 20, 2012

    This year the Netherlands will have its own laboratories on Antarctica for the first time. Three of the four laboratories started their journey to Antarctica on Monday 16 January. State Secretary for Education, Culture and Science, Halbe Zijlstra, together with NWO chair, Jos Engelen, sealed the laboratories for transport and announced their names.

    The four laboratories have been built in sea containers and on Antarctica they will be attached to a joint ‘docking station’. The laboratory on Rothera will be called the Gerritsz laboratory and the four separate modules bear the names Faith, Hope, Love and Glad Tidings.

    Up until now Dutch researchers depended upon the facilities of other countries with a base on Antarctica when they wanted to do research on and around the South Pole. The Dutch laboratories will be located on a British base. That will provide savings on costs for an own base and infrastructure and minimise the potential damage to the natural habitat on Antarctica. The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research and the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science are jointly investing 8.5 million euros in South Pole research.

    The mini-laboratories were built by a company from Dirksland that is specialised in refrigeration technology. For example, they tested whether the laboratories could withstand the freezing cold conditions on Antarctica. NWO attaches great importance to the sustainability aspects of this new research facility. For example, the temperature in the mini-laboratories is controlled by a heat pump that extracts heat from the external surroundings to regulate the temperature inside. Solar cells will also be installed on the roof of the docking station.

    Researchers will first make use of the laboratories at the start of 2013 when it is summer in Antarctica. Research in the laboratories will focus on climate change, glaciology, marine ecology and oceanography. Research subjects include chemical reactions in the atmosphere above Antarctica caused by the release of greenhouse gases during algal blooms. The rapid warming up along the West Coast of the Antarctic peninsula is facilitating the algal bloom and consequently exerting an influence on the global climate. A second study will also investigate algae and will specifically look at their place in the food chain; the underlying question is how the ecologically important Antarctic waters respond to changes in the climate. The third study concerns the changing level of iron and trace elements in seawater and sea ice, levels that are important for all living organisms in ecosystems. The fourth study will examine the increase in fresh meltwater that is flowing into the sea from Antarctic glaciers, and finally there is a study into the influence of this meltwater on food chains.

    The laboratories are named after a convoy of ships that left Rotterdam in 1598 in search of a trade route via the tip of South America to Asia. The ships were called Faith, Hope, Love, Glad Tidings and Loyalty. In the Magellan Straits the convoy was driven apart under severe weather conditions. One ship, the Glad Tidings under the leadership of Dirck Gerritsz, was blown far south. At 64° South Gerritsz saw a ‘very high mountainous country, full of snow, like the country of Norway’. This was probably the first sighting of Antarctica.

    Polar research
    The investment in research laboratories and research on the South Pole is part of the Netherlands Polar Programme, which funds Dutch scientific research in and into polar areas. As a signatory to the Antarctic Treaty the Netherlands is obliged to invest in research on the South Pole. Furthermore, the South Pole is a unique research environment where the consequences of climate change can be clearly measured, free of disruptive human influences.


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