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Arctic Dinosaurs Assignment

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Introduction

The movie Arctic Dinosaurs discusses evidence found in the Arctic that helps scientists discover what the climate was like during the Late Cretaceous. The Late Cretaceous period took place for 92 to 86 million years ago and was characterized by a period of drastic climate change. During the Late Cretaceous, land and seas continued to change and move. An amazing collection of dinosaurs had evolved. Some had become advanced, even caring for their young. Dinosaurs that were once plentiful disappeared from the earth by the end of the period. These dinosaur bones and fossils can help to determine the climate and temperature. Furthermore, Paleobotany and studying plant fossils can also help to determine the climate of the Late Cretaceous period. During this time, the climate of high latitudes areas and the Polar Regions became warmer. By the end of the period, the tropics were only in areas near the equator. The climate in the Arctic became temperate and tropical, with cool winters and warm summers during the Late Cretaceous period. The effect of the ice melting in the Arctic was a dramatic rise in sea level which flooded continental areas and produced major inland seas leading to continental rifting.

Dinosaur Bones

Scientists in Arctic Dinosaurs used dinosaur bones and fossils to help them determine the climate during the Late Cretaceous period. These dinosaur bones reveal what types of dinosaurs lived in the Arctic during that time period, and whether or not they were cold-blooded. 8 distinct species have been uncovered along the northern edge of Alaska, including the Gorgosorous, a type of T-Rex. This is significant because T-Rex dinosaurs were characteristic in temperate and warm climates which are contrary to the climate of the Arctic areas today. In a mass grave,

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palaeontologists found a mass grave with Gorogosorous and 3 other species’ of dinosaurs including hydrosaurs. Hydrosorous dinosaurs had very fleshy checks with hundreds of teeth for biting and chewing (Prieto-Marquez, 2010). These particular dinosaurs are warm-blooded and appeared to have lived in great numbers in Alaska. The bones of dinosaurs allow the scientists to analyze growth rings to determine their seasonal patterns; thereby, allowing them to make inferences about the climate and environment.

This evidence presented by the dinosaur bones reveals that the Arctic and other high latitude locations were once temperate and tropical areas (Benton, 1991). This appears to be supported by other scientists and scientific evidence. For example, a Late Cretaceous vertebrate assemblage from the high Canadian Arctic implies that polar climates were warm rather than the near freezing temperatures found there today. Thus, the temperate of the arctic was temperate during the period in question and provided dinosaurs and plant life the opportunity to thrive in a tropical climate. The assemblage includes large champsosaurs, which are extinct crocodile-like reptiles that require temperate conditions to live (Falcon-Lang et al., 1991). This study yields strong support for the theory of polar regions experiencing temperate and near tropical climates during the Late Cretaceous and furthers the facts that extreme melting of ice and flooding of the continents occurred during this time. There are many difficulties and potential pitfalls using fossil bones to reconstruct the environment and to determine climate and temperature in the Arctic during Late Cretaceous. For example, the presence of reptiles in the Arctic offers serious challenges to palaeontologists trying to reconstruct Cretaceous climates. The high polar temperatures implied by studies exacerbate the problems of simulating warm polar conditions without also raising equatorial temperatures to unreasonably high values (Tarduno et al., 1998). Palaeontologists in Arctic Dinosaurs admit that

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evidence of these kinds of dinosaurs suggests that the climate was warm or tropical; however, bones cannot fully describe the conditions of the dinosaur. Understanding these challenges help scientists to seek further evidence before making assumptions. Paleobotany Cycads are tropical plants that indicate warm climate conditions. Conifers are found in many climates and were also found in the Arctic during the Late Cretaceous. Leaves that have smooth edges are typical of warmer climate yet were found in the Arctic. These leaves can help pinpoint the temperature of the Arctic 70 million years ago. In hot climates the edges are smooth where in colder climates they have serrated edges and appear jagged. Serrations on leaves help the plant absorb nutrients in its particular climate. Thus, if the temperature drops drastically, tropical plants would die as a result of lack of nutrients (Alvin, 1989). Conversely, serrated leaves in colder climates help the plant absorb nutrients and live in colder climates. By analyzing the leaf shapes, the scientists can tell what the average annual temperature in a given places was within +- 1 degrees Celsius (McLoughlin et al., 2008). According to the data, they paleobotanists determined that Alaska was once a very temperate climate and over 30 degrees warmer than today. This also means that migration pattern of dinosaurs would have been different since there was less light and food available. Tree rings also show the paleobotanists that what food supply was available for the dinosaurs, and thus what dinosaurs were likely to be around. They determined that the plants available would have also brought meat-eaters. The paleobotanical evidence presented in Arctic Dinosaurs is supported by other studies. In a study published by Spicer and Herman (2010), flora fossils from the Late Cretaceous northern Alaska region were examined. Characteristics such as age, structure, flora dynamics, and composition were examined and compared with specimens from the Arctic Russia region.

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As a result of these comparisons, data supported the presence of a cold northern Pacific Ocean gyre; as well as, a warm Arctic Ocean. This data corroborates the evidence of an outlier of warmer and more temperate conditions in the Arctic regions during the Late Cretaceous (Spicer & Herman, 2010). Like the other studies examined, Spicer and Herman’s study also corroborates the presence of an outlier that suggests an abnormally hot climate during the Late Cretaceous which could explain the extinction of many living organisms and animals during that time. It also supports the theory of melting polar icecaps which led to the separation of the continents through rifting. Using palebotanical samples to reconstruct the climate of Late Cretaceous does have potential challenges and pitfalls. These make reconstructing the Late Cretaceous a daunting task to undertake. First, paleobotanical fossils consist solely of isolated leaves that demonstrate the shape, serrations, and venation. Though this data can be useful, abundant information can be difficult to extract since these fossils are not connected to its other plant organs. As a result, the potential results from these fossils have been tempered and reduced to analysis of the leaf architecture (Frolic and Chase, 2007). Simple architecture can only yield partially complete results that must be combined with other pieces of evidence when making inferences. Conclusion The film Arctic Dinosaurs provides accounts of evidence which helped paleontologists determine the climate during the Late Cretaceous. This was a significant time since many scientist think that the climate changed significantly leading to extinction of many dinosaurs, animals, and vegetation. In particular, the film presents dinosaur bone fossils; as well as, paleobotanical evidence that show a dramatic climate as the Arctic became temperate an unliveable for certain species. These findings are supported by many other studies regarding the

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Late Cretaceous period. Furthermore, studies support that arctic polar regions experienced an abnormal change in climate causing animals, dinosaurs, and vegetation extinct. This caused polar melting and flooding leading to continental rifting and the formation of separate continents.

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Bibliography Alvin, K.L. et al. (1981): Anatomy and palaeoecology of Pseudofrenelopsis and associated conifers in the English Wealden. Palaeontology, 24: 759-778. Retrieved from http://palaeontology.palass-pubs.org/pdf/Vol%2024/Pages%20759-778.pdf.

Benton, M. (January 1991). Polar dinosaurs and ancient climates. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 6 (1): pp. 28-30. Retrieved from PubMed.

Butler, R.J. et al. (2009): Diversity patterns amongst herbivorous dinosaurs and plants during the Cretaceous: implications for hypotheses of dinosaur/angiosperm co-evolution. PDF file, Journal of Evolutionary Biol., 22: 446-459. Retrieved from Pub Med.

Falcon-Lang, H.J. et al. (2004): Palaeoecology of Late Cretaceous polar vegetation preserved in the Hansen Point Volcanics, NW Ellesmere Island, Canada. PDF file, Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 212: 45-64. Retrieved from EbscoHost.

McLoughlin, S. et al. (2008). Seed ferns survived the end-Cretaceous mass extinction in Tasmania. PDF file, American Journal of Botany, 95: 465-471. Retrieved from http://www.amjbot.org/content/95/4/465.full.pdf. Prieto-Marquez, A. (Jun 2010). Global historical biogeography of hadrosaurid dinosaurs. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society; Vol. 159(2): p503-525. Tarduno, J. A. (1998). Evidence for Extreme Climatic Warmth from Late Cretaceous Arctic Vertebrates. Science Magazine. 282 (1) pp. 214-224. Retrieved from PubMed.

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Smith, S.A. et al. (2010): An uncorrelated relaxed-clock analysis suggests an earlier origin for flowering plants. PNAS, 107: 5897-5902. Retrieved from http://blackrim.org/files/smithetal2010.pdf. Spicer, R.A. and Herman, A. (2010): The Late Cretaceous Environment of the Arctic: A Quantitative Reassessment based on Plant Fossils. PDF file, Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology. Retrieved from http://oro.open.ac.uk/20876/1/Spicer_and_Herman_2010.pdf.