December 12, 2007—This lush landscape may not look like the Antarctica we know today, but what a difference 190 million years can make.
Back then, what's now a windswept mountain at the bottom of the world was the stomping ground of an enormous plant-eating dinosaur called Glacialisaurus hammeri, pictured here in an artist's rendering.
Scientists recently identified the giant dino more than a decade after its fossilized foot, ankle, and leg bones were first discovered some 13,000 feet (4,000 meters) up the face of Mount Kirkpatrick.
Tipping the scales at six tons and measuring some 25 feet (7.6 meters) long, Glacialisaurus belonged to a group of dinos called sauropodomorphs that were the largest to have ever walked the Earth, scientists say.
The discovery proves that the hefty reptiles made their home in present-day Antarctica as well as Asia, Africa, and the Americas, where similar specimens have been found from the same period, said Nathan Smith, a graduate student at Chicago's Field Museum who co-wrote the study describing the new species.
"This [wide geographic range] was probably due to the fact that major connections between the continents still existed at that time, and because climates were more equitable across latitudes than they are today," Smith said in a press statement.
In addition, because the dino dates to the Jurassic period—from about 145 million to 199 million years ago—Glacialisaurus also offers new proof that sauropodomorphs lived alongside their more advanced sauropod kin, like Diplodocus and Apatasaurus, the researchers say.
"[These fossils] are important because they help to establish that primitive sauropodomorph dinosaurs were more broadly distributed than previously thought and that they coexisted with their cousins, the true sauropods," Smith said.
Smith and Argentinean paleontologist Diego Pol report their findings in the online edition of the journal Acta Palaeontologica Poloncica.
—Blake de Pastino