The world during the Late Cretaceous. ©Ron Blakey and Colorado Plateau Geosystems, Inc., 2011

Today Antarctica is the coldest place on Earth. But it wasn't always that way. Millions of years ago in the Cretaceous period (around 65 Million years ago) Antarctica's climate was tropical to subtropical. This continent was covered by forest and was inhabitat by a diverse mammal and marsupial fauna. During this time period Antarctica wasn't located so far south and it was still connected to Australia. After a phase of constant cooling of the climate and the separation from Australia around 40 million years ago the first ice appeared on Antarctica and 25 million years later Antarctica was mostly covered by ice.

Many fossils in the Zinsmeister Collection were discovered on Seymour Island, located near the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, close to South America. In the past much of what is now Seymour Island was a shallow sea bed, and the sand and silt on the bottom preserved the remains of marine animals that lived and died there. As the continents shifted, these layers of fossil-rich rock were lifted out of the water, and they are now part of the landscape on Seymour Island.