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The Oregonian Friday, Dec. 18, 1998

Fossils in arctic hint at much hotter past
The Associated Press

Researchers say northernmost Canada must have been mild to have supported the cold‑blooded champosaur 90 million years ago

 WASHINGTON ‑The frigid Arctic regions were as balmy as present‑day Florida 90 million years ago, according to researchers who found fossils of a crocodile‑like animal in northern Canada.

At a place 600 miles from the North Pole, researchers from the university of Rochester found fossilized remains of the champosaur, a toothy, 8‑foot‑long extinct crocodile.

"We found a whole assemblage of fossils, from both young and adults," said geophysicist John H. Tarduno, the lead author of a study appearing in today's edition of the journal Science. "There were also turtles and fish."

The champosaur and the turtles are cold‑blooded animals that could have survived in the current climate of the Canadian Arctic, where the fossils were found, Tarduno said.

 "These fossils tell us that there had to have been a substantial growing season there then and that the climate was very unlike the arctic now," he said.

 Temperatures at the fossil site now routinely drop to minus‑60 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter. But when the champosaur lived there 86 million to 92 million years ago, temperatures rarely fell to freezing, and summertime readings of 80 degrees were common.

"We think it was typical of what Florida is now," Tarduno said.

No one had found a champosaur so close to the arctic before, said David B. Weishampel, a Johns Hopkins University dinosaur expert.

"The new find suggests that the poles were a lot warmer and more stable then than they are now," Weishampel said.

The closest previous find of champosaur fossils was about 1,000 miles south of the Canadian location, Tarduno said.

The champosaur closely resembled the modem‑day crocodile.  It had a long snout, powerful jaws filled with teeth and a long tail.

Weishampel said the champosaur was probably cold‑blooded, which means it had little tolerance for cold weather. It also was too small to have migrated seasonally.

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