CROAK-ING THE SURFACE, AT A GLANCE
- A frog that lives in South America was found in Antarctica, but fossilized
- There were more remarkable findings like weeds, water lily seeds, and more unlikely vegetation
- Antarctica was probably realistically habitable.
We have heard veteran travelers boast of traveling across ‘all six continents’. There is a mutual disregard for Antarctica in the tourism industry. It is based on the wide assumption that that place is nothing more than a cold, hard lump at the south of Earth. However, it holds many mysteries. Recently, the frog fossil found in Antarctica. We owe the transcription of an entire era, the Ice Age, to a tiny ice sample dating back to 1,20,000 years.
Similarly, another such discovery has come to light in the recent turn of scientific publications.
A team of Swedish paleontologists released their findings in the journal Scientific Reports. The abstract lists down the basis of the findings and several hypotheses. Above all, the finding in question is the discovery of a fossil of the body parts of a frog: ilium and ornamented skull bone.
Officially released pictures of the fossils discovered
WHAT’S AN ILIUM AND WHY DOES IT MATTER?
The frogs and toads that we have on Earth today have one of the most unusual skeletons for a tetrapod (vertebrates like amphibians, reptiles, mammals, and birds). A distinguishing factor between the skeleton of anurans (frogs and toads) from other tetrapods is the Ilium, which is the hip bone of a frog.
Consequently, the ornamental skull found can easily be traced to the amphibians commonly known as ‘helmeted frogs’ found roaming around in South America that is today.
Fossils belonging to amphibians have already been discovered in Antarctica. However, said fossils belonged to giant amphibians that existed on Earth in the Triassic Period (more than 200 million years ago). Hence, the shape of the newly-found ilium and the ornamented skull indicates that there were, on Antarctica frogs that need different climatic conditions than the ones that primarily exist.
As we read before, these frogs are now found in South America, the lowest recorded temperature of which is -38.2C, according to. The average temperature in Antarctica with the parallel existence of climate change and depletion of the Ozone layer is -60C.
This establishes the existence of a time when Antarctica had temperatures habitable enough for frogs and toads. Hence the vegetation and plantation needed to sustain cold-blooded animals and reptiles. This, in turn, helps scientists get closer to discovering the time before Antarctica started developing ice plates. Specifically, where that time coincides with the splitting of the continent from the super-continent Gondwana (that held Australia as well as South America, before splitting).
The questions mainly raised are “How old was Antarctica when it started splitting?’, “What existed on Antarctica before ice sheets started to form?”
Near Seymour Island, Antarctic Peninsula
WHO, WHEN, HOW
Thomas Mörs, a Swedish paleontologist, led a team of Swedish and Argentinian paleontologists on three separate expeditions. These took place in 2011, 2012 and 2013, where they retrieved several samples. After going through thousands of samples thoroughly, Mörs discovered a few millimeters of frog fossils.
These samples were recovered in Eocene, which is small sediment in Seymour Island on the Antarctic Peninsula.
The frog fossil found in Antarctica may not give us acute information about climatic conditions throughout Antarctica. It can help us figure out some very specific details about the Seymour region and regions near to it.
With one discovery comes a barrage of hypotheses. It highlights the unrealized ties between science and history. The past validates the present. The discovery has only fueled the paleontology community.
Swedish paleontologists are now thinking of covering unexplored areas like freshwater species in the Antarctic waters.
In the words of modern pop culture, stay tuned to find out more!
All the images belong to their respective owners.