Frozen Fossils

There are plenty of science fiction stories about a creature being discovered frozen in a glacier in Antarctica that comes to life when it is thawed out. Never watch this kind of movie with a scientist that knows about fossils and what would really happen if an ancient creature were to become trapped in the ice and frozen there for millions of years. But the idea that it would go into some form of suspended animation to come alive when the ice thaws is pretty far fetched.

Nonetheless, there have been many discoveries of fossilized creatures including dinosaurs frozen into the ice at some of the most remote locations in the Antarctic and other frozen areas of earth. What is true about these discoveries is that often when a fossilized dinosaur is found in such a location, the preservation of the fossils is superior. So these kind of archeological digs are very exciting to paleontologists because the ice does keep the fossil “fresh” as well or better than other locations where fossils have been discovered.

It takes specific conditions for a fossil to be encased and preserved for millions of years until we can find it and study the mysteries it has to reveal. It is situations where the dinosaur fell into a tar pit or into some other circumstance where the body was instantly sealed off from air and access from bacteria or scavengers so it could fossilize and become an artifact for future scientists. When that happened inside of a glacier, that tells us a lot not only about the dinosaur itself but about the environmental conditions at the time.

We think of places like Antarctica as frozen wastelands were very little life could survive. But when a fossil discovery reveals that at one time dinosaurs thrived in this same location, that tells you that global change caused a significant evolution of that particular area of the either. Dinosaurs are not as a rule creatures that thrived in frozen tundra. So for those creatures to even be in Antarctica or some other now frozen area, that area had to have been green and warm and able to support life.

The presence of that one dinosaur also tells us that there were probably many dinosaurs in the area who were part of an active ecosystem where such beasts could survive. If the dinosaur was a herbivore, it needed lots of lush vegetation for food. If it was a carnivore, it needed lots of other creatures to kill and eat.

Scientists can use this information to understand more about the climate and changes in the way the continents have worked over thousands of years. This information is extremely valuable because they can use it to tell us if or when we will see environmental shifts like the dinosaurs did and what they might do to change how we live life on this planet. If dinosaurs had scientists in their population to do these studies for them, they might have never become extinct.