Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Fossilized Burrows 245 Million Years Old Suggest Lizard-like Creatures In Antarctica

Date:
June 8, 2008
Source:
University of Washington
Summary:
Scientists find evidence of tetrapods living in Antarctica during the early Triassic epoch, about 245 million years ago. The fossils were created when fine sand from an overflowing river poured into the animals' burrows and hardened into casts of the open spaces. The largest preserved piece is about 14 inches long, 6 inches wide and 3 inches deep. The burrows' relatively small size prompted scientists to speculate that their owners might have been small lizardlike reptiles called Procolophonids or an early mammal relative called Thrinaxodon.

Christian Sidor of the University of Washington digs for tetrapod fossils in Allan Hills, part of the southern Victoria Land area of Antarctica, during field work in January 2006.
Credit: Cara Fritz/Oregon State University

For the first time paleontologists have found fossilized burrows of tetrapods -- any land vertebrates with four legs or leglike appendages -- in Antarctica dating from the Early Triassic epoch, about 245 million years ago.

Related Articles


The fossils were created when fine sand from an overflowing river poured into the animals' burrows and hardened into casts of the open spaces. The largest preserved piece is about 14 inches long, 6 inches wide and 3 inches deep. No animal remains were found inside the burrow casts, but the hardened sediment in each burrow preserved a track made as the animals entered and exited.

In addition, scratch marks from the animals' initial excavation were apparent in some places, said Christian Sidor, a University of Washington assistant professor of biology and curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture at the UW.

"We've got good evidence that these burrows were made by land-dwelling animals rather than crayfish," said Sidor, who is lead author of a paper describing the find, which is being published in the June edition of The Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

Co-authors are Molly Miller, a geology professor at Vanderbilt University, and John Isbell, a geosciences professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. The work was funded by the National Science Foundation.

Fossils of tetrapod bones from later in the Triassic period have been found in a section of Antarctica called Victoria Land, but the fossil burrows predate those bone fossils by at least 15 million years, Sidor said.

The fossilized burrows were collected in 2003 and 2005-06 from the Fremouw Formation at Wahl Glacier and from the Lashly Formation at Allan Hills, both toward the outer edges of Antarctica.

Despite the absence of fossil bones, the burrows' relatively small size prompted Sidor to speculate that their owners might have been small lizardlike reptiles called Procolophonids or an early mammal relative called Thrinaxodon.

Burrows, some containing tetrapod bones, have previously been excavated in South Africa, which is considered to be perhaps the world's richest fossil depository, and those burrows are nearly identical to the fossils unearthed in Antarctica. During the Triassic period, Antarctica and South Africa were connected as part of a supercontinent called Pangea.

Because even at that time Antarctica was substantially colder than South Africa, and because sea levels likely were higher than today, it is much rarer to find fossils there that date from as far back as the Early Triassic.

"Everywhere has a spotty fossil record, but Antarctica has an extremely spotty fossil record because it is difficult finding exposed rocks amid all the ice," Sidor said.

At the time the burrows were dug, Antarctica would have been ice free. However temperatures still would have been quite cold, since both areas where the burrows were found are within the Antarctic Circle and so experience at least one day a year of complete darkness.

"We have documented that tetrapods were burrowing, making dens in Antarctica, back in the Triassic," Sidor said. "There are lots of good reasons for burrowing at high latitudes, not the least of which is protection from the elements."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Washington. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Washington. "Fossilized Burrows 245 Million Years Old Suggest Lizard-like Creatures In Antarctica." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 June 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080607232647.htm>.
University of Washington. (2008, June 8). Fossilized Burrows 245 Million Years Old Suggest Lizard-like Creatures In Antarctica. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 18, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080607232647.htm
University of Washington. "Fossilized Burrows 245 Million Years Old Suggest Lizard-like Creatures In Antarctica." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080607232647.htm (accessed April 18, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Fossils & Ruins News

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Cleaners Find Ancient Peru Mummy

Cleaners Find Ancient Peru Mummy

Reuters - News Video Online (Apr. 15, 2015) Cleaners in Peru stumble across an ancient mummy mysteriously dumped near rubbish in the pre-Incan city of Chan Chan. Rough cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
388 Unidentified Pearl Harbor Victims To Be Exhumed, ID'd

388 Unidentified Pearl Harbor Victims To Be Exhumed, ID'd

Newsy (Apr. 15, 2015) The Department of Defense is exhuming the unidentified remains of 388 servicemen who died on board the USS Oklahoma in 1941. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Manuscript by Nazi Code Breaker Alan Turing Sells for $1 Million

Manuscript by Nazi Code Breaker Alan Turing Sells for $1 Million

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Apr. 13, 2015) Alan Turing&apos;s notebook containing the foundations of mathematics and computer science sells at auction for $1,025,000 (USD). Roselle Chen reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Replica Cave Showcases Artistry of Stone Age Man

Replica Cave Showcases Artistry of Stone Age Man

AFP (Apr. 10, 2015) A replica of a cave in the Ardeche, in southern France will be opened Friday to give visitors the chance to see cave paintings produced around 36,000 years ago. Duration: 01:05 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins