Researchers at Florida State University and the University of Alaska Fairbanks have unearthed fossils of a plant-eating dinosaur in the high Arctic of Alaska. Scientists concluded that the fossils were from a distant species of the hadrosaur. However, the new duck-billed dinosaur is not connected to hadrosaurs previously recovered in Canada and Lower 48 states.
It thrived in harsh conditions
It may prompt scientists to change their view of dinosaur physiology. The newly discovered species thrived about 69 million years ago in cold weather and prolonged periods of darkness that lasted months. Gregory Erickson, a professor of biology at Florida State University, said it supports a theory that certain dinosaur species had adapted to the harsh conditions of Arctic.
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This hadrosaur has been named Ugrunaaluk kuukpikensis, which means “ancient grazer” in the Iñupiaq language of Alaska Inupiat Eskimos. Findings of the study were published in the journal Acta Palaeontologica Polonica. Mark Norell of the American Museum of Natural History said the hadrosaur likely lived in the high Arctic all-year round. The climate in the Late Cretaceous period was a little warmer than it is today, making sustainability easier.
The dinosaur grew up to 30 feet long
More than 6,000 fossil bones were recovered from the Liscomb Bone Bed located along the Colville River in Alaska. Researchers said most of the fossils were of small juveniles. Ugrunaaluk kuukpikensis had hundreds of teeth to grind coarse vegetation. They walked primarily on their hind legs, though they were capable of walking on four legs. The dinos grew up to 30 feet long and lived in herds in northern Alaska.
Researchers initially believed the fossils were of Edmontosaurus, another hadrosaur species well-known in the U.S. and Canada. However, a formal study revealed that there were differences in the mouth and skull features of the two, and the new one was a different species. The differences were not apparent because the Ugrunaaluk fossils were of juveniles. Scientists plotted their growth trajectories and also compared them with juvelines of Edmontosaurus.