Project: New mammalian and avian records from the late Eocene La Meseta and Submeseta Formations of Seymour Island, Antarctica

About the project

The middle-late Eocene of Antarctica was characterized by dramatic change as the continent became isolated from the other southern landmasses and the Antarctic Circumpolar Current formed. These events were crucial to the formation of the permanent Antarctic ice cap, affecting both regional and global climate change. Our best insight into how life in the high latitudes responded to this climatic shift is provided by the fossil record from Seymour Island, near the eastern coast of the Antarctic Peninsula. While extensive collections have been made from the La Meseta and Submeseta Formations of this island, few avian taxa other than penguins have been described and postcranial mammalian remains have been scarce. Here, we report new fossils from Seymour Island collected by the Antarctic Peninsula Paleontology Project. These include a mammalian metapodial referred to Xenarthra and avian material including a partial tarsometatarsus referred to Gruiformes (cranes, rails, and allies). Penguin fossils (Sphenisciformes) continue to be most abundant in new collections from these deposits. We report several penguin remains including a large spear-like mandible preserving the symphysis, a nearly complete tarsometatarsus with similarities to the large penguin clade Palaeeudyptes but possibly representing a new species, and two small partial tarsometatarsi belonging to the genus Delphinornis. These findings expand our view of Eocene vertebrate faunas on Antarctica. Specifically, the new remains referred to Gruiformes and Xenarthra provide support for previously proposed, but contentious, earliest occurrence records of these clades on the continent.

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Sarah Davis


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Created 11/8/2019 at 0:44
Modified 11/8/2019 at 0:44