The Strange Lives of Polar Dinosaurs

Mitch Leslie in Smithsonian Magazine:

Screenhunter_2Snow and ice are rare in this part of Australia today. But evidence from Flat Rocks and other nearby sites confirms that a little over 100 million years ago, “it was bloody cold around here,” as Rich puts it. Though about a third of Australia now lies within the tropics, back then the continent sat about 2,000 miles south of its current position, snuggled against Antarctica. Southeastern Australia probably had a climate similar to that of Chicago, if not Fairbanks.

All the more surprising, then, that dinosaurs thrived here at that time. Think “dinosaurs” and you probably conjure up behemoths trudging through sweltering swamps or torrid tropical forests. But Rich and other scientists working in Australia, Alaska and even atop a mountain in Antarctica have unearthed remains of dinosaurs that prospered in environments that were cold for at least part of the year. Polar dinosaurs, as they are known, also had to endure prolonged darkness—up to six months each winter. “The moon would be out more than the sun, and it would be tough making a living,” says paleontologist David Weishampel of Johns Hopkins University.

The evidence that dinosaurs braved the cold—and maybe scrunched through snow and slid on ice—challenges what scientists know about how the animals survived.

More here.  [Thanks to Beajerry.]