250-Million-Year-Old Fossils Named “Antarctic King”

Antarctica wasn’t always a frozen wasteland.

New reptile fossils shed light on what life was like on Antarctic 250 million years ago. (Adrienne Stroup/Field Museum)

Newly discovered reptile fossils are offering insight into what life was like for the “Antarctic King.”

The new species is called Antarctanax shackletoni. The first name means “Antarctic king,” and the second name honors Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton, CNN reports.

Although the skeleton isn’t complete, researchers believe it is closely related to the archosaurs. Due to the similarities, scientists theorize that the new reptile was a meat-eater that feasted on frogs and insects as well as early mammals.

“This new animal was an archosaur, an early relative of crocodiles and dinosaurs,” Brandon Peecook, lead study author and Field Museum researcher, said in a statement. “On its own, it just looks a little like a lizard, but evolutionarily, it’s one of the first members of that big group. It tells us how dinosaurs and their closest relatives evolved and spread.”

Parts of the United States may be feeling Arctic-like temps this week, but Antarctica wasn’t always a frigid no man’s land. Some 250 million years ago, Antarctica was a lush, green land filled with forests and rivers. The temperature rarely dropped below freezing.

“The more we find out about prehistoric Antarctica, the weirder it is,” Peecook said. “We thought that Antarctic animals would be similar to the ones that were living in southern Africa, since those landmasses were joined back then. But we’re finding that Antarctica’s wildlife is surprisingly unique.”

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