Researchers recently discovered the “Antarctic king”, whose official name is Antarctanax shackletoni. The Antarctanax was a reptile that lived back in the Triassic period. The animal is an ancestors for both dinosaur and modern crocodiles.
“In and of itself, [ Antarctanax shackletoni] not a surprising animal—it looks like what an animal should look like if it’s that kind of thing at that time,” lead author Brandon Peecook said. “But it’s underlining this bigger point that the ancestors of things like dinosaurs and crocodiles are a part of this really explosive radiation [of life], right after this awful earth history event.”
Uncovering the bones
Researchers discovered the bones of the Antarctic King. They discovered feet and leg bones, ribs and vertebrae. There was no skull, but scientists are quite sure that the Antarctanax shackletoni was a carnivore. “We know pretty confidently where it fits on the tree of life alongside the archosaurs, and everything around it is carnivorous,” Peecook explained.
It appears that the reptile lived back in the era when there was only one continent, the great Pangea. The Antarctic King lived close to the poles, but despite this fact, the animal was warm. Back then there was greenhouse atmospheric heating. Researchers discovered that in Antarctic there were also non-flowing conifer species, ferns and other types of ancient lizards. They supposedly lived at the same time as the Antarctic King.
“There definitely were a lot of little carnivores in that [Antarctic] forest,” Peecook said. “Some of the amphibians were getting about as big as Antarctanax, and almost all amphibians are carnivores, too. So there’d be a lot of little guys probably eating each other, eating the young, eating insects. It’s a lot of raw discovery, and it’s such an adventure.”