Photo credit: Alfred-Wegener-Institut / James McKay | CC-BY 4.0
Antarctica may be a cold, desolate place right now, but in ancient times, the southernmost point of the Earth was once home to many swampy rainforests that were teeming with life. This was determined by the sediment core retrieved by scientists working aboard the research icebreaker RV Polarstern in the Amundsen Sea near the Pine Island Glacier, which is dated to about 90 million years ago during the Cretaceous Period when dinosaurs roamed the lands.
Based on the soil content that this location, approximately 560-miles from the South Pole, the average annual temperatures ranged from 53-55° Fahrenheit, while average temperatures during the warmest summer months experienced 68-77° Fahrenheit. For some, that may not sound very warm, but considering the average annual temperature now is around minus 40° Fahrenheit, this was plenty warm for the many creatures that lived here.
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The dark-brownish gray soil they obtained was composed of fine-grained silt, while the clay bearing remains of fossil roots in a dense network, pollen / spores spanned 65 types of plants, with individual cell structures being clearly visible.