By John Rhodes - 1997

Hundreds of millions of years ago, the Earth that the dinosaurs inhabited look quite different than it does now. In fact, the entire land mass of the Earth was drawn together by continental drift into one giant supercontinent surrounded by a single ocean called Tethys. The continent itself was called Pangaea.

After a while, Pangaea gradually split into two separate parts. The northern land mass (containing the North American, Asian and European continents) gradually fractured and spread northwards. The southernmost land mass (containing South America, Africa, India, Antarctica and Australia) remained fairly intact and occupied the southern hemisphere. This southern hemispheric land mass was called Gondwanaland.

At this time, Antarctica was attached to the southern boundary of Australia, forming an area that is known as polar Gondwanaland. Although polar Gondwanaland was located well within the Antarctic circle, the fossil records indicate that this area once enjoyed a climate similar to that of the state of Oregon. 

Paleobotanists report that Antarctica’s cool landscape was filled with beautiful conifers, ferns, evergreens and a few flowering plants which spread patches of color across the vast land. Geologists report that great mountain ranges and volcanoes pierced the horizon and rivers flowed abundantly across the terrain. What is most important to our study is that scientists have discovered that, within this enchanting and peaceful polar environment, a variety of life thrived,  including dinosaurs.

Additionally, along the southern cliff side of Australia, a region that was once attached to polar Gondwanaland, the remains of another Polar Dinosaur was unearthed that provided insight into the remarkable ability that certain dinosaur specied had to evolve, adapt and thrive in dark, cool environments. The dinosaurs name was LEAELLYNASAURA (Lee-Ellena-Saura):



When paleontologist Tom Rich (Museum of Victoria, Australia) discovered the fossilized remains of the polar dinosaur Leaellynasaura in an excavated tunnel on the southern shores of Victoria, he uncovered evidence that showed how dinosaurs were fully capable of adapting and surviving in low light and low temperature conditions.

Leaellynasaura was unique dinosaur in many ways. It was a large chicken sized herbivorous dinosaur with bipedal posture, long legs and well-developed digits at the end of their front limbs.

The most interesting thing about this discovery was found in the fossilized skull of Leaellynasaura.




When Tom Rich studied Leaellynasaura’s skull (right), he noticed that it also had an unusually large brain for a dinosaur of its size and that its optical lobes (the ridge of the brain where messages are received from the eye and are translated into visual images) were extremely oversized. Additionally, the dinosaurs eyes were remarkably large. These cranial formations led Dr. Rich to believe that a major portion (almost sixty-five percent) of Leaellynasaura's brain was completely dedicated to the processing optical information. This may indicate Leaellynasaura was primarily nocturnal (active at night).


Place a card or piece of paper on the dotted line, bring your eyes close to the opposite end of the card or paper. Allow your focus to merge the two pictures. It can be seen in 3D! (courtesy: Quantas 'Airways' Syme projects)

Although Polar GondwanaLand had a climate much like that of northern Oregon or Scotland, Dr. Rich knew that the seasonal extremes through which the polar Gondwanaland environment fluctuated were as unique as were the dinosaurs that inhabited this ancient region of the planet. Logic suggests that any animal species that was living in these extreme southern latitudes would either have to be:

A) A migrating species that travels to northern latitudes during the four long months of Antarctic winter cold and darkness, or

B) A stationary species that was physically adapted to living and thriving such bleak conditions.

Dinosaurs that remained in Antarctica would have had to forge for food in freezing or sub-freezing temperatures and in the dark. How is this possible for a dinosaur? Could it be that the sheer environmental stresses of living under these polar climates encouraged dinosaurs living in this region to evolve an evermore increasingly warmer blooded physiology in order to survive?

The physical adaptability and physiological survivability of some of the dinosaurs to survive in extreme low temperature environments has been estabished with the discovery of Antarctic dinsours, such as Leaellynasaura.

The BIG question is: Could Antarctic dinosaurs, such as the lovely Leaellynasaura, be the perfect cadidates for adapting to the dark, cool regions of the Earth...such as caverns and caves?



There are several reasons why it is possible that some of the polar dinosaurs may have been driven to seek the shelter of the Antarctic underworld.


  • Given that Leaellynasaura-type polar dinosaurs must have been hypersensitive to light, the long Antarctic summer days may have forced some dinosaurs into darker shelter in order to avoid bright light. As with most nocturnal animals, it is possible that they sought shelter in a cave or large caverns close to the surface of the earth?

  • The wind blown Antarctic winter nights may have also led the Leaellynasaura-like polar dinosaurs to seek shelter from the wind. Just as a cave or cavern opening became mankind's first domicile, dinosaurs may have used such an inner earth opening as a shelter from from such unfavorable winter conditions.

  • Many creatures that were on the Saurian menu, sought the refuge of the underworld to escape their predators. When caves and cavern systems were used as a means of escape, unrelenting dinosaurs would have followed their prey as deep into the earth as possible to get "dinner." Once inside, they may have noticed the agreeable conditions within the cave and later returned when winter draped itself over the Gondwanaland terrain.

These environmental conditions may have possibly created a dinosaur that was perfectly pre-adapted for living underground. Furthermore, it is also important to remember that Leaellynasaura was almost 110 million years old when Paleontologist Tom Rich discovered her remains in Dinosaur Cove, Australia. This means that as physiologically advanced as these polar dinosaurs appear to have been, they still had an additional 45 million more years in which evolution could perfect their designs so they could further explore their world and seek out new ecological niches in which they could adapt and thrive.

Paleontologists appear to be in agreement that dinosaurs of this type and from this region of the Earth were, most likely, amongst the last to walk the surface of the planet 65 million years ago.

Given the fact that this particular type of dinosaur was so highly adapted to a cool or cold climate and was able to see in the dark, could other advanced polar dinosaurs, such as Leaellynasaura, have been able to survive the cool, dark underground environment if they could find food and water? Could large brained dinosaurs have entered one of the many ancient volcanic vents or lava tube caves that speckle the southern Antarctic continent (polar Gondwanaland) and discovered an underground ecological niche in which they could evolve undisturbed for millions of years? Perhaps in search for answers we need look as far as this very profound statement.

 "Author Conan Doyle once dreamed of a plateau in South America that time forgot, where dinosaurs continued to reign. Reports earlier this year that Dwarf mammoths survived to early historical times, in islands of the coast of Siberia, give force to such speculation. If dinosaurs found a similar haven in which they outlived the rest of their kind, then we think polar Gondwana, including southeastern Australia, is a likely place to look for it."

Patricia and Tom Rich, Discoverers of Leaellynasaura; Scientific American,  July, 1993

Alas, even these great paleontologists appear to also dream of discovering survivors of the great dinosaur extinction! And, according to their own words, they believe that polar Gondawanaland or Antarctica, would be the place to search for evidence of their survival.

Thanks to paleontologists Dale Russell and Tom Rich, immensely important realities have been established that can support the hypothesis regarding saurian survival. Scientific evidence now indicates that:

a) Dinosaurs could have eventually acquired the human-like physical form.

b) Some dinosaurs were perfectly "suited" for survival in the dark, cool underground environment.

c) If some dinosaurs were to have survived the disaster of 65 million years ago, a yet undiscovered haven the Antarctic regions may conceal the remains or actual presence of their descendants.