SYDNEY (AFP) – An Australian-based researcher said that he had found the first proof that land-dwelling dinosaurs lived on remote islands in the south Pacific.Jeffrey Stilwell, a US-born fellow in palaeontology at Melbourne’s Monash University, said he discovered the fossilized foot, finger and spinal bones of carnivorous dinosaurs on the Chatham Islands, about 850 kilometers (530 miles) east of New Zealand. The discovery confirmed that the Chathams were once connected to New Zealand by a finger-like extension, Stilwell told AFP. “Prior to our discoveries, only a few isolated examples of dinosaur fossils had been found in the northern part of New Zealand,” he said.
“Now we’ve found dinosaur remains almost 1,000 kilometers east out in the middle of the South Pacific,” he said, adding that his team had already uncovered more dinosaur fossils in the Chathams than had been unearthed in New Zealand over the past 25 years. While some dinosaur remains had been found along the Antarctic peninsula and in South America, this was the first such discovery in the southwest Pacific and is possibly unique in the southern hemisphere, he said.
“They were on their own evolutionary path for probably 15 million years since the separation of the Chathams-New Zealand region some 85-80 million years ago,” he said. Stilwell found the first fossils by accident when he visited the Chatham Islands in 2003 in connection to other studies. “No one had even hypothesized that there were any fossils out that far,” he said.