June 05, 2008

245 million-year-old fossils found in Antarctica

Posted by: Steven Zhang

Here’s an amazing discovery in the field of paleontology: for the first time paleontologists have found 245 million-year-old fossilized burrows of tetrapods (four-legged land vertebrates) in Antarctica. The Burke Museum’s curator of vertebrae paleontology, Christian Sidor, is the lead author of a paper describing this new discovery.

So, what’s a burrow? It’s a series of holes underground created by mammals as their habitat.

"We've got good evidence that these burrows were made by
land-dwelling animals rather than crayfish," said Sidor.
Evidence shows that the fossils were formed when fine sand from an overflowing river poured into the animal’s burrows and hardened. The largest piece found was 14 inches long, 6 inches wide and 3 inches deep. This was a rare discovery considering the icy conditions of Antarctica and suggests that mammals were living in Antarctica far earlier than previously thought!

Photo by Cara Fritz / Oregon State University