Antarctic Dinosaurs

Category: Exhibitions

Exhibition Summary

Requires All-Access or Discovery Pass

Closes Jan 6, 2019

All ages

Requires All-Access or Discovery Pass

Closes Jan 6, 2019

All ages

About the Exhibit

Imagine Antarctica before it was frozen.

We know it as a land of snow and ice, but Antarctica was once a lush, forested environment—and home to dinosaurs. 

Venture into dramatically different landscapes, from Antarctica 255 million years ago to the extreme conditions of expeditions there today. Following in the footsteps of our scientists, discover fossils unearthed as recently as 2011—including two dinosaur species that are new to science. 

Transported back to the Jurassic, stand beside a life-sized model of Cryolophosaurus, a 26-foot-long meat-eating theropod dinosaur. (Its distinctive crest earned Cryolophosaurus the nickname “Elvisaurus.”) Go back even further in time to meet the animals and plants that made Antarctica home before the dinosaurs, and step into their world. 

The exhibition is presented in both English and Spanish. La exhibición está presentada en inglés y español.

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People look up at a cast of a Cryolophosaurus dinosaur skeleton on display behind a railing. The dinosaur stands on two hind legs and appears menacing, with sharp teeth. In the background, a dinosaur model is visible in a diorama under blue light.

Based on fossils unearthed in Antarctica, this cast shows a nearly fully grown Cryolophosaurus. After studying the specimen’s bones, scientists believe the dinosaur was about 15 years old when it died.

Martin Baumgaertner

Embark on an Antarctic expedition alongside Field Museum scientists.

Exhibition highlights:

  • Equipment used in the first exploratory expeditions and today
  • Plants, amphibians, and other life from Antarctica’s temperate fossil forests
  • Fossils of four dinosaur species unique to Antarctica 
  • Life-sized reconstructions of Cryolophosaurus, two newly discovered sauropod ancestors, and a giant prehistoric amphibian, Antarctosuchus

Extreme expeditions

Before the work of quarrying hard rock with power tools can begin, getting to Antarctica is a feat all on its own. The extreme conditions and remote location require careful preparation, including packing supplies from clothing to food, radios, and tents. Once they’ve set up camp, paleontologists can only reach the dig site by helicopter: while much of Antarctica is covered in ice, exposed rock in the Transantarctic Mountains offers one of the few locations where it’s possible to excavate fossils. 

Since 1990, four species of dinosaur unique to Antarctica have been uncovered on Mt. Kirkpatrick. Field Museum scientists continue to make the voyage to Antarctica during its warmest months of December and January, when temperatures average -10º F on the mountain’s slopes. 

In addition to the search for dinosaurs, our paleontologists continue to unearth all sorts of fossils: mammal relatives, reptiles, amphibians, and even plants. Each discovery adds a clue to how environments and climates change over time, and how life adapts. 

Fossil skull of a new sauropodomorph species of dinosaur from Antarctica. 

John Weinstein

A Cryolophosaurus skull fossil from about 195 million years ago features the dinosaur’s distinctive crest. 

John Weinstein

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