Antarctica was not always a frozen desert – 250 million years ago, it was covered with forests and rivers, and the temperature rarely fell below the glacier. It was also a home of diverse wildlife, including early dinosaurs. The scientists have just discovered the latest member of this family – a reptile of Iguana size whose name means "Antarctic King".
"This new animal was an archosaur, an early crocodile and dinosaur cousin," says Brandon Peecook, Field Museum Researcher and Museum Journal of Vertebrate Paleontologists describing a new species. "By itself, it just seems a bit like a lizard, but evolutionarily, it's one of the first members of this big group. He tells us how the dinosaurs and their closest relatives developed and expanded. "
The fossil skeleton is incomplete, but paleontologists still have a good feeling for the animal, called Antarctanak shackletoni (First, it means "king of Antarctica", the latter is nodding to polar explorer Ernest Shackleton). Based on similarities with other fossil animals, Peecook and its coauthors (Roger Smith of the University of Vitampersrand and the South African Museum Iziko and Christian Sidor from the Burke Museum and the University of Washington) assume that Antarctanak He was a carnivore who hunted bugs, wounded relatives of mammals and amphibians.
The most interesting thing about this Antarctanakhowever, where he lived and when. "The more we discover about the prehistoric Antarctic, it's even more weird," says Peecook, who is also associated with the Burke Museum. "We thought that Antarctic animals would be similar to those who lived in South Africa, since these land masses were then joined. But we find that the wildlife of Antarctica is surprisingly unique. "
About two million years ago Antarctanak live – blink an eye in a geological time – Earth has passed the greatest mass extermination. Climate change caused by volcanic eruptions killed 90% of all animals. The years that followed immediately after this extinction were evolutionarily free for everyone – while the mass was exterminated, and new groups of animals struggled to fill the gaps. Archosaurs, including dinosaurs, were one of the groups that experienced tremendous growth. "Before mass extinction, archos were found only around Equator, but after that they were everywhere," says Peecook. "And the Antarctic had a combination of these completely new animals and stray animals that were already extinct in most places – what palaeontologists call" dead clumps on the go. "You have tomorrow's animals and yesterday's animals, living in a cool place.
The fact that the scientists found it Antarctanak It helps strengthen the idea that Antarctica was a place of rapid evolution and diversification after mass extinction. "The more different species of animals we find, the more we learn about the pattern of taking over the archosaur after mass extinction," notes Peecook.
"Antarctica is one of those places on Earth, as well as the bottom of the sea, where we are still in the early stages of the research," says Peecook. "Antarctanak our little part of discovering the history of Antarctica. "