Fossil evidence of an ancient sauropod, the classification which contains some of the largest animals to ever walk the earth, has recently been uncovered on the Antarctic continent by an Argentinian research team. Similar fossils have previously been observed on every other continent, and this new finding suggests that these creatures were characterized by an essentially global distribution prior to the end of the Cretaceous Period, when a massive extinction event eradicated most forms of non-avian dinosaur life. Specifically, these fossil remnants contained an incomplete caudal vertebra, one that appears to resemble those previously attributed to titanosaurs, one of the predominant sauropodal subdivisions at the end of the Cretaceous. The titanosaur group, thought to include at least 50 different known species, is thought to include some of the heaviest dinosaurs to ever walk the Earth; these species were typically characterized by long necks and tails, small heads, and an herbivorous diet. The fossils were found in sedimentary deposits located adjacent to the Weddell Sea, which forms the eastern boundary of the Antarctic Peninsula. This peninsula comprises the northern-most region of the continent, and has become an important area for researchers interested in climate change. As such, numerous research outposts exist there, providing a base of operations for a variety of different research projects. In some areas of the world, including South America, titanosaurs are thought to have been the predominant herbivorous animals at the time of the post-Cretaceous cataclysm. At some point during the cretaceous period (145-65 MYA), it is believed that the Antarctic continent was connected to South America via a narrow isthmus, explaining how these apparently similar fossil remnants could exist in such geographically distant regions. This is not the first time that fossil evidence suggesting the ancient presence of dinosaurs on the island has been discovered. In 1986, Argentinian geologists uncovered fossil evidence of Antarctopelta oliveroi, a quadrupedal herbivore with a body covered in armored plates. Coupled with a subsequent American discovery of a theropodal fossil in 2003, it is widely agreed that James Ross Island, and likely other regions of the continent, were once inhabited by a significant number of dinosaur species.This finding provides important insight into the geographic distribution of these titanosaur species prior to the end of the Cretaceous period, and helps paleontologists fill at least one of the huge number of gaps which exist in the Antarctic fossil record.


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