What cool fossils tell us about cold climates

Millions of years ago, Antarctica was not located where it is today. Instead, it was situated farther north, and what is now Seymour Island, part of the Antarctic Peninsula, was a shallow sea bed. At that time, the Antarctic waters were quite warm, and contained creatures that typically live in tropical seas — such as the Cucullaea antarctica pictured here. During the middle of the Eocene epoch (about 41 million years ago), the Earth began a transition from this warm "greenhouse" climate to a much cooler glacial climate. The fossils that William Zinsmeister collected from Seymour Island show a record of this change in the Earth's climate, and are extremely useful for studying both past and present climate change.

This Cucullaea antarctica lived in Antarctic waters during the Cretaceous. Modern Cucullaea species inhabit tropical waters with temperatures ranging from 74-82o F!