2016-2017 Science Planning Summaries
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2016-2017 USAP Field Season
Project Detail

Project Title

Middle-late Devonian vertebrates of Antarctica

no photo available


Event Number:

Program Manager:
Dr. Douglas Kowalewski

ASC POC/Implementer:
Jenny Cunningham / Bija Sass

Principal Investigator

Dr. Neil H Shubin

University of Chicago
Department of Organismal Biology and Anatomy
Chicago, Illinois


Supporting Stations: McMurdo Station
Research Locations: Mounts Fleming and Crean / Quartermain Mountains


Understanding the relationships and history of sharks, fish, and limbed animals forms the backbone for both basic and applied science because fish often serve as models of human traits and diseases. Some of the main lines of evidence for these relationships come from fossils in rocks over 380 million years old that were originally deposited by ancient rivers and streams. Because rocks of this type and age are abundantly exposed on the flanks of mountains in Antarctica, the investigation of these areas holds exceptional promise for discoveries that can have a broad impact. Researchers hope to uncover fossilized vertebrates that may provide data on the emergence of anatomical structures, fauna, and habitats during a critical moment of evolution.

Field Season Overview

Team members will make an initial helicopter recconaissance flight from McMurdo to the Dry Valleys to select three separate field camp sites, and to determine the best sampling locations. A group of six, including one mountaineer, will then tent camp at the chosen sites for eight days at a time. They will travel by foot from their field camps to their sampling locations, where they will use hand tools (crowbars, sledge hammers, and chisels) to unearth and remove exposed fossils. Collected fossils will be transported to back to McMurdo Station by helicopter between campsite moves.

Deploying Team Members

  • Edward Daeschler (Co-PI)
  • John Long
  • Adam Maloof
  • Neil Shubin (PI)
  • Senden Timothy