Expeditions to Antarctica | Natural History Museum of Los Angeles

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Expeditions to Antarctica

Much of our knowledge of Mesozoic ecosystems comes with a severe geographical bias, with the fossil record of North America and Europe having been studied more intensely than Gondwanan sediments. The sedimentary sequence preserved in the Central Transantarctic Mountains offers a rare glimpse of what terrestrial ecosystems were like at high latitudes during this time. Early Triassic vertebrates occur at numerous localities in exposures near the Beardmore and Shackleton Glaciers, and an early Middle Triassic vertebrate assemblage has been described from localities in the Gordon Valley and at Fremouw Peak, all in the Beardmore Glacier region. Finally, an Early Jurassic dinosaur fauna was discovered in 1990-91 on Mt. Kirkpatrick near the Beardmore Glacier. This fauna includes the dinosaurs Cryolophosaurus and Glacialisaurus, as well as a new dinosaur we recovered during our 2010-11 expedition. Anatomical descriptions and evolutionary analysis of the fossil vertebrates from the Triassic–Jurassic of Antarctica are a major focus of our research, and are providing considerable insight into the evolution of Antarctic ecosystems. Our work has documented a biogeographic pattern of increasing endemism in vertebrate faunas throughout the early Mesozoic, possibly related to Antarctica's gradual climatic and geographic isolation from other Gondwanan landmasses.