A recent expedition in Antarctica revealed some surprising secrets on the icy continent. Researchers discovered a jackpot of ancient fossils, some of which date back 71 million years. The team from Australia’s University of Queensland discovered the loot on James Ross Island near the Antarctic Peninsula over a grueling seven-week expedition that required miles of hiking between base camp and excavation sites.

The research team consisted of 12 scientists working together on the Antarctic Peninsula Paleontology Project, an effort aimed at learning about the ancient origins of the icy continent. Dr Steve Salisbury of the UQ School of Biological Sciences was one of the scientists on the expedition which spanned February and March. They targeted the area at that time of the year because exposed rocks made it more likely to find larger dinosaur fossils, and they did.

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“We found a lot of really great fossils,” said Salisbury in a statement. “The rocks that we were focusing on come from the end of the Age of Dinosaurs, so most of them are between 71 million and 67 million years old… We did find a lot of marine reptile remains, so things like plesiosaurs and mosasaurs, a type of marine lizard made famous by the recent film Jurassic World.”

In addition to uncovering fossils, the research team did extensive geological mapping, collecting data on the thickness of rocks and other environmental information. This will help reconstruct a clearer picture of the conditions that existed while those ancient animals roamed the Earth. The treasure trove of fossils was transported to Chile and will eventually wind up at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History for further study.

Via Gizmodo

Images via Steve Salisbury/The University of Queensland and Antarctic Peninsula Paleontology Project