Around 85-90 million years ago, South America began to disconnect from Gondwana — a supercontinent that also encompassed what is now Antarctica, Africa, Madagascar, Australia and parts of Arabia.
For a long time, many experts believed that this ancient, gradual separation was the last time Chile and Antarctica were linked. That is, until palaeontologists unearthed a hugely significant find in Southern Chile that has rewritten the geological history of the region proving a much more recent link between the Andean nation and the white wilderness.
What was this earth-shattering find? A huge uncovering of dinosaur fossils, in fact, the largest in Chile’s history. Researchers uncovered hundreds of pieces of dinosaur bone and skull in the Última Esperanza province in the Magallanes Region earlier this year.
Marcelo Leppe, one of the researchers involved in the project and manager of the Chilean Antarctic Institute (INACHI) Science Department explained how it to be part of such a significant discovery.
“It gives you shivers down your spine and a real feeling of happiness to come across something so old,” he told This is Chile.
Última Esperanza is now the most southerly fossil site in the continent, leading experts to deduce the presence of a land bridge with Antarctica towards the end of the dinosaur era.
“We knew that South America and Antarctica were once connected in the past. What we didn’t know was at what point in time and in what way,” Leppe told This is Chile. “It was known that they were linked in the Turonian era around 85-90 million years ago. Now we know that also at the end of the dinosaur era there was another connection [of land] and this connection could help solve many of today’s related mysteries.”
The researchers involved are currently working on a report in which they hope to publish their findings in the next few months. Chile has also been the site of several other significant finds in recent months and years that have helped us to understand the mysteries of this continent’s history, animals and ancient people. In the Atacama Desert, for example, new findings on the fascinating Chinchorro Mummies have offered possible explanations on why this culture became the first to embalm its dead thousands of years before the Egyptians adopted the practice.
By Benjamin Druttman