Mainland antarctica’s first terrestrial dinosaur has been identified from fossils unearthed in the New Zealand-administered Ross Dependency.Named Cryolophosaurus by its discoverers, US scientists William Hammer and William Hickerson, the animal has been described as a seven-meter crested carnivore which lived during the early Jurassic.
This and other fossil finds at the Mt Kirkpatrick site, 700 km from Scott Base, are the first Jurassic animals of any type to be found in Antarctica. Other identifiable remains include a 7-8 m prosauropod, a pterosaur, teeth from other scavenging dinosaurs and a single tooth from a tritylodon—a “mammal-like” reptile.
Cryolophosaurus is both a new species and genus, and is one of few well-preserved carnivorous dinosaurs from the Jurassic known from the entire Gondwana supercontinent—the giant landmass which once included New Zealand, Australia, Antarctica, India, Africa and South America. “Cryolophosaurus is a fairly advanced species for the early Jurassic, and shows that large carnivores evolved rapidly during the late Triassic and early Jurassic to populate most of Gondwana,” says Hammer.
The discovery may also throw light on some unexplained aspects of dinosaur evolution, says New Zealand paleontologist Joan Wiffen. “Finding a therapod of that age probably means that more dinosaurs originated in the southern hemisphere than previously suspected. Gondwana’s dinosaurs may even have migrated northwards to populate the northern hemisphere, rather than the other way round.”