Antarctica was not always a frozen desert – 250 million years ago, it was covered with forests and rivers, and the temperature rarely dropped below zero. It was also home to a variety of wildlife, including early dinosaur relatives. Scientists have just discovered the newest member of this family – a reptile sized iguana whose name means "the king of Antarctica".
"This new animal was an arhosaur, early crocodile and dinosaur cousin," says Brandon Peecook, Field Museum and Museum researcher Journal of Paleontology of the Vertebrate describing a new type. – It looks a bit like a lizard, but evolving, it's one of the first members of that big group. Tell us how dinosaurs and their closest parents developed and expanded. "
Fossil skeleton is incomplete, but paleontologists still have a good feeling for the animal Antarctanax shackleton (First means "King of Antarctica", the latter is a nod to the polar researcher Ernest Shackleton). Based on similarities with other fossil animals, Peecook and his co-authors (Roger Smith from Witwatersrand University and the South African Museum Iziko and Christian Sidor from the Burke Museum and the University of Washington) assume that Antarctanax he was a messo who hunted bugs, wounded mammals and amphibians.
The most interesting thing about it AntarctanaxHowever, where he lived and when. "The more we discover about prehistoric Antarctica, the more weird," says Peecook, who is also associated with the Burke Museum. "We thought that animals in Antarctica would be similar to those living in South Africa, since these land masses then joined." But we find that the Antarctic wildlife is surprisingly unique. "
Two million years ago Antarctanax live – blinking in geological time – Earth has experienced its greatest mass extinction. Climate changes caused by volcanic eruptions killed 90% of all animals. The years that followed immediately after this extinction were evolutionary free for all – with the mask of the shattered shrimp, a new group of animals had begun to fill the voids. Arhosaurs, including dinosaurs, were one of the groups that experienced tremendous growth. "Before the mass extermination, Archbishops were found only around the Equator, but thereafter they were everywhere," says Peecook. "Antarctica had a combination of these completely new animals and those who had already been extinct in most places – what paleontologists call" walking the dead blades. "
The fact that scientists have found it Antarctanax helps to support the idea that Antarctica was a place of rapid evolution and diversification after mass extinction. "The more animals we find, the more we learn about the pattern of taking arhosaurus after mass extinction," notes Peecook.
"Antarctica is one of those places on Earth, like the bottom of the sea, where we are still in very early stages of research," says Peecook. "Antarctanax is our little part of discovering the history of Antarctica. "