A Triassic reptile now dubbed as the “Antarctic King” is the newest addition to the dinosaur family. It once thrived in Antarctica when it was still covered in forests and rivers instead of ice.
Scientists just discovered that the fossilized remains of an iguana-sized reptile is actually an early relative of crocodiles and dinosaurs. The incomplete skeleton was discovered during the 2010-2011 expedition from Graphite Peak, and was determined to be an archosaur. Although it does look like a common lizard especially with its size, it is actually one of the first members of the group.
It was since named Antarctanax shackletoni, the former meaning “Antarctic king” and the latter a homage explorer Ernest Shackleton. Based on its similarities with other fossils, the Antarctanax is believed to be a carnivore whose primary food was likely bugs, amphibians, and early mammals.
Furthermore, researchers found it rather interesting that the animal was found in Antarctica. With Antarctica and southern Africa being attached at the time, they initially figured that the animals in the two landmasses would be similar. However, they are finding that the animals that once thrived in Antarctica were very unique.
According to scientists, the Antarctanax would only be found near the equator before the mass extinction that wiped out 90 percent of all animal life due to climate change, but after it, the Antarctanax was one of the animals that thrived everywhere, including in the colder climate of Antarctica. As such, the scientists say that this shows how Antarctica was a place where rapid evolution took place after the mass extinction.
“Antarctica is one of those places on Earth, like the bottom of the sea, where we’re still in the very early stages of exploration,” said lead researcher Brandon Peecook.
The study is published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.