The fossil remains of a previously unknown species of dinosaur were discovered in Alaska and a new species has been declared. However, the discovery of a trove of fossils came some 25 years ago and it’s taken this long for researchers to examine them fully and find they included a new species.
Fossilized in rocks 69 million years ago and found in the Prince Creek formation in Northern Alaska, researchers initially believed they had found the bones of an Edmontosaurus, a species of Hadrosaur dinosaur; Hadrosaurs were duck-billed, plant-eaters that roamed Asia, Europe and North America. More recently, after further research it was realized that some of the bones were not from a Edmontosaurus but a new species of Hadrosaur.
Ancient grazing dinosaur
The earth sciences curator at the University of Alaska Museum in Fairbanks, Dr. Pat Druckenmiller, said that the name that’s been given to this newly discovered dinosaur is – get ready for a jumble of letters – the Ugrunaaluk kuukpikensis (oo-GROO’-nah-luk KOOK’-pik-en-sis). It means ‘ancient grazer’ in the native tongue of Alaska’s Inupiat Eskimos. The scientists say that no other dinosaur ever lived farther north than the ancient grazer.
It was Dr. Druckenmiller and his team along with paleontologists at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and Florida State University who examined the bones and made the discovery. Going back 69 million years ago the Earth was in what is referred to as the Late Cretaceous period and it was long-considered too cold for dinosaurs to survive in the northern area of Alaska during this period.
Lost world of dinosaurs
However this is not the first species to be found that lived during that era in that area and it is now believed that while still cooler than the rest of the planet, it was warmer in the north of Alaska then than it is now. Palaeontologists believe there were other unknown dinosaurs that lived in the Prince Creek formation area that are yet to be discovered.
One of the palaeontologist from the Florida State University team, Dr. Gregory Erickson, said only now are they beginning to realize the area was rife with many types of dinosaurs during the Late Cretaceous period.
“The climate was much less harsh in the Late Cretaceous than it is today, making sustainability easier,” he said. “Basically (it was) a lost world of dinosaurs that we didn’t realize existed.”
The Ugrunaaluk kuukpikensis grew as tall as 30 feet (9 m.) and had hundreds of teeth. The creature could walk on all fours or rise up and walk just on its hind legs.