Antarctica (Southern Pole) - A team of paleontologists working over two digging seasons, have unearthed the latest type of a sauropodomorph, a massive plant-eating dinosaur that lived 190 million years ago. Dubbed Glacialisaurus Hammeri, the remains consisted of a partial foot, leg and ankle bones. They were found at 13,000 feet on Mount Kirkpatrick, near the Beardmore Glacier, Antarctica.
Nathan Smith, a graduate student at The Field Museum, said, "The fossils were painstakingly removed from the ice and rock using jackhammers, rock saws and chisels under extremely difficult conditions over the course of two field seasons. They are important because they help to establish that primitive sauropodomorph dinosaurs were more broadly distributed than previously thought, and that they coexisted with their cousins, the true sauropods." Photo credit: William Stout, Copyright 2007, an artist's reconstruction of Glacialisaurus hammeri and Antarctica during the Early Jurassic period, with several pterosaurs in the background and a small mammal-like reptile in the foreground.
Sauropodomorphs were the largest animals to ever walk the earth. They included the commonly regarded long-necked herbivores, such as Diplodocus and Apatosaurus. They were closely related to the theropods, including Tyrannosaurus, Velociraptor, and even modern birds.
The paleontologists believe Glacialisaurus Hammeri was 20-25 feet long, weighing 4-6 tons. This would make it about the size of an average modern day elephant. While small by comparison to its sauropodomorph cousins, this dinosaur was also no slouch. It was named after Dr. William Hammer, a professor at Augustana College who led both field trips to Antarctica. Glacialisaurus Hammeri is believed to be a Massopsondylidae. If true, this represents a secondary radiation of basal sauropodomorphs from the Early Jurassic period.
Finding like these help resolve disputes between scientists as to the origins and timelines of various dinosaur branches. For example, it is now believed that Glacialisaurus Hammeri existed during an extended period of time alongside other sauropodomorphs during the Late Triassic and Early Jurassic periods.
These findings were first published December 5, 2007, in Acta Palaeontologica Poloncica, along with co-author Diego Pol, a paleontologist at the Museo Paleontológico in Chubut, Argentina.