Dinosaurs Walked in Antarctic Rainforests

Dinosaurs Walked in Antarctic Rainforests

Scientists drilling off the coast of West Antarctica have found the fossil remains of forests that grew in the region 90 million years ago - in the time of the dinosaurs.Their analysis of the material indicates the continent back then would have been as warm as parts of Europe are today but that global sea levels would have been over 100m higher than at present.The research, led from the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI) in Germany, is published in the journal Nature.

It's emerged from an expedition in 2017 to recover marine sediments in Pine Island Bay.AWI and its partners, including the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), used a novel cassette drill-mechanism called MeBo to extract core material some 30m under the seafloor.

When the team examined the sediments in the lab, it found traces of ancient soils and pollen and even tree roots.The interpretation is that this sector of West Antarctica, in the geological period known as the Cretaceous, featured temperate rainforest and swamp conditions - the kind of vegetation you will find on New Zealand's South Island today.

"We have a really nice X-ray movie through the sediment core," said AWI's Prof Karsten Gohl, who spearheaded the expedition on Germany's Research Vessel Polarstern.

"It's like we've drilled into a modern swamp environment and you're seeing the living root system, small plant particles and pollen - but this is all preserved from 90 million years ago. It's amazing."

 "And, yes, there probably were dinosaurs in the forests," she explained. "If you go to the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, you'll find a whole range of fossils - things like hadrosaurs and sauropods, and primitive bird-like dinosaurs. The whole range of dinosaurs that lived in the rest of the world managed to get down to Antarctica during the Cretaceous."

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