If you happened to be living on this planet 250 million years ago, you probably wanted to spend your vacations in Antarctica.
Scientists paint a vivid picture of the tropical paradise that the frozen continent once was — and perhaps what the continent will be like again: verdant grasslands, gushing rivers and forests as far as the eye could see.
That’s how researchers at the Field Museum are describing a newly discovered reptile that once prowled those lush lands.
Scientifically dubbed Antarctanax shackletoni — a combination of “Antarctic king” and the name of intrepid explorer Ernest Shackleton — this lizard probably didn’t come off as particularly stately. At least in size.
Its dimensions, based on an incomplete fossil skeleton found this week, put it somewhere in the neighborhood of a modern-day iguana.
“This new animal was an archosaur, an early relative of crocodiles and dinosaurs,” Field Museum researcher Brandon Peecook notes in a press release. “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.”
And despite its humdrum appearance, Antarctanax lived in strange times indeed, according to the study published this week in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.
Hints of a unique ecosystem