An Ancient Loch Ness Monster Has Been Uncovered in Antarctica
As much as we may like to pretend that we know everything about our planet, there are still lots of mysteries to be solved, and fun discoveries to be made.
The waves off the coast of Antarctica have delivered up a particularly fascinating new discovery in the form of a plesiosaur; the species that's typically ascribed to Scotland's Loch Ness monster. Discovered near a research base belonging to scientists from Argentina, the find is one of very few such ancient discoveries to be made on the entire continent.
It's believed that the creature lived approximately a hundred and fifty million years ago, making it a particularly old example of the species. Based on our current knowledge, plesiosaurs first emerged during the Triassic period, around two hundred million years ago, and remained alive until a mass extinction event closed out the Late Cretaceous period of the planet's history, when all of the coolest dinosaurs (such as the Tyrannosaurus Rex and the triceratops) roamed the earth.
The long-necked plesiosaur wasn't a dinosaur itself, but rather a large aquatic lizard; a saltwater distant cousin to the crocodile, which also existed at the time in pretty much the same form as they do now.
The fossil has sparked the interest of the paleontology community as a whole because, as per our current understanding of fossil preservation, it shouldn't exist. It had not been believed that rock in the area was capable of preserving boned fossils for such a length of time - the twelve meter monstrosity is by far the oldest fossil of a vertebrate to have ever been discovered buried in Antarctic ground.
This leads naturally to the expectation - or, at least, the hope - that further discoveries await anyone foolhardy enough to try mining Antarctica's coastline for more fossils. Considering that, for understandable reasons, not much time has been spent digging in the ground on the uninhabited continent, there could be a lot of fun stuff hidden that haven't been spotted thus far.
At the time that the plesiosaur died, Antarctica was part of the Gondwana continent, which also contained Australia, New Zealand, India, Madagascar, Africa and South America. Over time, continental drift tore the large land mass apart, which is why the animal managed to get so far from other places that have been known for producing fossils of its species.
Research is to continue at the fossil's dig site into the new year, as thankfully, Antarctica is enjoying its summer at the moment, making it easier to examine the area than it would be in winter.
It is not expected that this fossil will contain any signs that indicate that the plesiosaur species might still be alive to this day, nor that one might be living in a lake on an island off the coast of mainland Europe.
That said, the Scottish tourism board can live in hope - after all, if there's one thing this find proves, it's that we still have a lot to learn about both the ancient and the modern world around us.