Antarctic researchers discover the remains of a 40 million year old frog, suggesting that the continent once had a much warmer climate and supported a diverse array of wildlife
- Scientists in Antarctica found bone fragments of a 40 million year old frog
- They believe the remains are of a helmet frog, a species that is still alive today and most commonly found in Chile's warm lowland regions.
- The discovery supports the idea that Antartica was once covered with forests
Researchers in Antarctica have discovered the remains of a frog dating back 40 million years, after a period when the frozen continent had a radically different climate.
The remains were found on Seymour Island, at the end of the Antarctic Peninsula in a region closest to the southern tip of South America.
The team, co-led by Thomas Mörs of the Swedish Museum of Natural History, found the skull and bones of a frog who was believed to be part of the Calyptocephalellidae family.
A team of researchers, co-led by Thomas Mörs of the Swedish Museum of Natural History, discovered the remains of a 40 million-year-old frog in Antarctica, the first evidence of amphibian life on the continent of that period
More commonly known as helmet-free frogs, these small amphibians are still found in South America, mostly in the lowlands of Chile, where temperatures are warm and humid.
It is likely that a helmet frog can survive long in Antartica's icy conditions today, but the discovery provides new insight into just how long Antarctica's previously temperate period lasted.
& # 39; The question now is, how cold was it and what was living on the continent when & # 39; t these ice sheets began to form? & # 39; Mörs said in an interview with Science News.
& # 39; This frog is one more indication that at that time, at least around the peninsula, it was still a suitable habitat for cold-blooded animals such as reptiles and amphibians. & # 39;
In the past, scientists believe that Antarctica was part of a larger supercontinent called Pangea with what is now Australia and South America.
The team found the remains on Seymour Island, on & # 39; the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, in & # 39; a neighborhood of the closest point of the continent to South America
At that time, the region was covered with temperate rainforests, similar to what is currently found in New Zealand, which would have a completely different set of beings than currently associated with Antarctica.
Previous research has found teeth and other fragments of marsupials from the pre-freeze period, but according to Mörs, no one has yet found evidence of frogs.
About 34 million years ago, Pangea began to separate, and Antarctica began to cool and formed large glaciers that would eventually make it uninhabitable for most of life.
The remains are believed to come from a helmeted frog, a species that still lives today in more temperate parts of South America, including the warm lowlands of Chile
The remains consisted of a skull and thigh fur, which the team believes predates the period of freezing and glaciation that radically altered the Antarctic terrain.
Previous expeditions to Antarctica have found small bone fragments of predators and other mammals, but no one has found evidence of life in the amphibian of the last 200 million years
The Mörs team had begun their expedition in hopes of learning more about what the terrain was like during that period and what caused the cooling.
Mörs believes that learning more about the lifestyles that support the region can help scientists better understand what caused the climate of Antarctica to change so drastically.
& # 39; It would be great to have more data for this [six million years] to get a better idea of the cooling process, & # 39; he told Vice.
HOW TO FORM FOR SUPER CONTINENTS?
Earth's tectonic plates, moving across the planet at a rate of a few centimeters per year.
They come together so often and combine into a supercontinent, that remains for a few hundred million years before breaking up.
The plates then spread as scattered and moving apart, until eventually – after another 400-600 million years – they come together again.