2018-2019 Science Planning Summaries
United States Antarctic Program United States Antarctic Program Logo National Science Foundation Logo
2018-2019 USAP Field Season
Project Detail

Project Title

Middle-late Devonian vertebrates of Antarctica

The team recovering fish fossils in 385 million year old rocks.
Photo by: Neil Shubin
G-071-M Research Location(s): Victoria Land


Event Number:

Program Manager:
Dr. Douglas Kowalewski

ASC POC/Implementer:
Jenny Cunningham / Bija Sass

Principal Investigator(s)

Dr. Neil H Shubin
University of Chicago
Department of Organismal Biology and Anatomy
Chicago, Illinois


Supporting Stations: McMurdo Station
Research Locations: Victoria Land


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

A team of six researchers will travel by Twin Otter aircraft to Deception Glacier where they will establish field camps for about one month. They will travel between camps and to their research sites by snowmobile and will collect fossils from the Middle and Upper Devonian periods along the nunataks in Skelton Névé and Deception Glacier. Geological maps and previous reconnaissance indicate that rocks in those areas are broadly exposed across outcrops extending from the Escalade, Warren, and Boomerang Ranges to the south, and Mount Portal to the north. A documentary film crew will join them for the last week of their field season.

Deploying Team Members

  • Edward Daeschler (Co-PI)
  • John Long
  • Adam Maloof
  • Forrest McCarthy
  • Andrew Mitchell
  • Corey Robinson
  • Tim Senden
  • Neil Shubin (PI)