AP3: Antarctica Peninsula Paleontology Project
February 29–March 6, 2016
Project G-182-N (PI Matt Lamanna)
The team completed several of its research objectives and continued to make progress towards others during week three. At the Sandwich Bluff locality on Vega Island, scientists discovered four new fossil plant sites, found additional Cretaceous fish and bird material, and prepared a plesiosaur (long-necked marine reptile) shoulder girdle for extraction.
All of these specimens were recovered from the Upper Cretaceous Sandwich Bluff Member of the López de Bertodano Formation. At approximately 70 million years in age, this rock unit dates to only a few million years prior to the infamous mass extinction that ended the Mesozoic era, or Age of Dinosaurs.
Geologists Eric Roberts and Zubair Jinnah completed their stratigraphic and sedimentological study of the sections of the Snow Hill Island and López de Bertodano formations exposed on the southwestern flank of Sandwich Bluff, an area that, due to its steepness, elevation, and snow cover, has been nicknamed ‘K2’ after that well-known Himalayan peak. They sampled the middle and upper levels of the Sandwich Bluff Member for aragonitic fossil invertebrate shells to be used in strontium isotope geochronological analyses.
Scientists also continued to conduct helicopter-supported reconnaissance visits to other areas of the James Ross Basin, identifying two previously undocumented Cretaceous exposures that were targeted for future investigation.
Inclement weather forced many members of the team to return to their ship, the RVIB Nathaniel B. Palmer, for two days during week three. They spent the time refining strategies for the remainder of the field season, updating the project’s blog and social media pages, and studying fossils that had already been collected.
1) G-182-N paleontologists Abby West (left) and Steve Salisbury (center) collect a plesiosaur shoulder girdle co-discovered by Salisbury with ASC Marine Technician Julia Carlton (right). Photo by Matt Lamanna.
2) G-182-N geologists Zubair Jinnah (foreground) and Eric Roberts study the stratigraphy and sedimentology of the ‘K2’ section on Vega Island. Photo by Pat O’Connor.
3.) G-182-N paleontologist Kerin Claeson searches for fossils in the ‘Fish Horizon’ near the K–Pg boundary on Seymour Island. Claeson and other G-182-N personnel have collected dozens of partial to nearly complete fish skeletons from the ‘Fish Horizon’ to date, the analysis of which promises to inform understanding of the K–Pg mass extinction in the southern high latitudes. Photo by Meng Jin.
Matt Lamanna is a paleontologist and the principal dinosaur researcher at Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh. Matt and his team of researchers blog frequently from Antarctica while on expedition at antarticdinos.org.