December 21, 2010

Updates from Antarctica

Two weeks ago, a team of paleontologists from the museum began their journey to Antarctica for a two-month fossil hunting expedition. If you missed the video we posted about what the actual trip down to the southern-most continent is like, watch it here.

Well, they made it:
Exiting the plane at McMurdo Station in Antarctica.
The Burke team is joined by scientists from The Field Museum, Augustana College, the University of Alberta, and the Iziko South African Museum. Together, the group is looking for dinosaurs and other fossils in the Transantarctic Mountains.
If you’re curious to know more about what it’s like to conduct field work in such an extreme place as Antarctica, The Field Museum has an excellent expedition website with lots of totally fascinating information about this 2010-11 Antarctic expedition.

I easily got sucked into the site, which includes photos of camp life, dispatches from the field, and more about the fossils that have been found in Antarctica so far. Here are three surprising things I learned from The Field Museum’s expedition site:

• Back in the day (i.e. 250 million years ago), the Earth had no polar ice caps. Antarctica was part of the super-continent Pangaea and was actually temperate in climate, hence the abundance of plant and animal fossils from species that would never survive in polar Antarctica today.

• Of the species found in Antarctica so far, many were wholly new to science, such as the first dinosaur found on the continent, Crylophosaurus.

• Because of the severe cold and altitude, many of the traditional tools used to stabilize fossils (e.g. fossils and glue) don’t work in Antarctica. As a solution, excavators will wrap small fossils in toilet paper to protect them in transit back to the United States.

Before leaving Chicago to meet up with our crew from Seattle in Antarctica, two of the paleontologists from The Field Museum recorded this video about their expedition. Watch it to learn more about what their goals are for this trip:

Find more online at The Field Museum.

Posted by: Julia Swan, Communications

Dinosaurs in Antarctica? – Antarctica Video Report #1 from The Field Museum on Vimeo.