An Arctic Dinosaur

An Arctic Dinosaur

On August 3, 1960, a party of geologists exploring a sandstone cliff made a most astonishing discovery. Exposed to view was a series of thirteen footprints of a large dinosaur later identified as a species of Iguanodon. The prints were thirty inches long, unusually large compared with other Iguanodon tracks found in Europe. They were made during the last period of the Age of Reptiles, the Cretaceous, about one hundred million years ago.

The most incredible feature of this discovery was that it took place in Spitsbergen, well within the Arctic Circle. Enough is known about dinosaur environments to conclude that, with few exceptions, all species lived in tropical or sub tropical regions. A dinosaur of this size would certainly require much vegetation to sustain itself. An Arctic home, such as Spitsbergen, could not possibly produce enough plant food to support herds of such large animals. Yet here, within the Arctic wasteland, were dinosaur footprints! The obvious conclusion is that Spitsbergen could not have been in a frigid climatic region when Iguanodon walked across its surface.

There is much geological evidence to indicate that during the days of the dinosaur most of the present continents were united into a supercontinent now referred to as Pangaea. The breakup in the land masses we know today took place during the final millennia of the dinosaur era. In time the various lands "drifted" to their present locations, a process referred to as continental drift or plate tectonics.

The discovery of Iguanodon tracks has added indisputable evidence to the theory of continental drift. The presence of such a dinosaurian species clearly indicates that one hundred million years ago Spitsbergen was tropical. Therefore, it would not possibly have been in its present geographic location at that time.

Spitsbergen must have been part of Europe during the time of the dinosaurs. Geologists know that much of Eurasia at that time was tropical. During the breakup of the continental masses Spitsbergen split off form Europe and, in the course of millions of years, drifted to its present position.

From the book: 
Our Fascinating Earth