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Extracting fossils in frozen rock

Scientists extract fossils from rock using tools

To retrieve fossils encased in frozen rock, scientists use a number of tools, including jackhammers, rock saws, chisels, pickaxes and, on occasion, explosives. Here, National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded paleontologists Peter Makovicky and Nathan Smith from the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago use jackhammers to drill through rock on the slopes of Mount Kirkpatrick, Antarctica, during a 2010-2011 expedition.

Because most of Antarctica is covered by ice and snow, scientists hunting for fossils are limited to rocky outcrops, generally in mountainous areas. Geologists help date exposed rocks, letting paleontologists identify sites where they are likely to find fossils from specific prehistoric time periods.

More about this image
This image appeared in the NSF/Discover magazine image gallery When dinosaurs roamed Antarctica. (Date image taken: January 2011; date originally posted to NSF Multimedia Gallery: June 20, 2018)

Credit: Philip J. Currie, University of Alberta

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