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Paleontologists Unearth Dinosaur Remains in Antarctica - 2004-02-29


Two groups of paleontologists working thousands of kilometers apart in Antarctica have unearthed the fossilized remains of previously unknown species' of dinosaur.

Both groups of dinosaur hunters working simultaneously on the frozen continent, made their discoveries last December, within a week of each other. They announced their findings in Washington on Thursday.

One group of dinosaur hunters says the 70 million year old remains of the fierce, meat-eating creature they unearthed in a shallow lake bed off the coast of the Antarctic Peninsula is older than other prehistoric predators that roamed the globe during the "the age of dinosaurs."

At two meters high, jaw and leg fragments of the two-legged dinosaur suggest it was considerably smaller than its relative, tyrannosaurus rex. Scientists say the creature roamed the earth at a time when Antarctica was balmy, like the climate of the U.S. Pacific northwest.

Expedition leader Judd Case, of St. Mary College in California, says the continent is a goldmine for dinosaur hunters despite the harsh weather conditions.

"You don't get that many opportunities to go there," he said. "Yet consistently, Antarctica keeps producing new surprises as far as life on earth."

Because of its remoteness, scientists says almost anything that's found in the icy wilderness of Antarctica is "new science."

On a mountaintop 400-600 kilometers from the South Pole, the other team of paleontologists found a one meter long pelvis bone. They say the 190-million-year-old fossil belonged to one of the earliest members of the four-legged, plant- eating sauropod family, which eventually produced dinosaurs thirty meters long.

Expedition head William Hammer of Augustana College in Illinois said the dinosaur hunters couldn't believe what they'd found.

"You don't immediately want to believe it... just in case, you know." There's a slight pause. "'Is that really there?' And then when you realize it is, there of course it's close to pandomonium, I suppose, among the group," he said.

The expeditions to the South Pole were funded by the National Science Foundation, an independent U.S. government agency.

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