Paleontologists recently discovered a new species of dinosaur and this one was a duck-billed creature that used to live in the Arctic, in northern Alaska.
• The creature is a herbivore, and so far the only dinosaur known to adapt to cold weather.
• The bones were found in the Prince Creek Formation.
• The physical appearance of the animal initially caused researchers to confuse it with another species – the Edmontosaurus.
Field experts dubbed the newly discovered, plant eating dinosaur “Ugrunaaluk Kuukpikensis”, which translates to “ancient grazer”. The animal is the first to be found this far up north and paleontologists believe that it was uniquely equipped to thrive in the cold, dark environment of the Arctic region.
Greg Erickson, field expert from Florida State University, gave a statement saying that “The finding of dinosaurs this far north challenges everything we thought about a dinosaur’s physiology. It creates this natural question. How did they survive up here?”
A team of researchers found the Ugrunaaluk Kuukpikensis after looking through 9.000 bones recently unearthed in the Prince Creek Formation, along the Colville River. Six-thousand (6,000) of them belonged to various hadrosaurs, commonly known as duck-billed dinosaurs.
Most of these dinosaurs’ remains were taken from the same rock layer, the Liscomb Bonebed, a site which was located above the paleo-Arctic Circle 69.2 million years ago, during the Late Cretaceous. What this means is that the new species of dinosaurs could be found as far north as they had land to walk on.
While Arctic Alaska was not as cold back then as it is today, the temperatures were still lower than those generally preferred by dinosaurs. They usually averaged around five (5) or six (6) degrees Celsius (42 or 43 degrees Fahrenheit), and the land was covered in trees.
However, the research team theorized that the Ugrunaaluk Kuukpikensis used to spend the winter months in darkness due to the temperatures dropping down to two (2) degrees Celsius (36 degrees Fahrenheit).
Physically, members of the species are believed to have possessed scales, plates on their backs, broad bills (which helped them graze low-lying plants), teeth (which they used for grinding), and supposedly walked kin two (2) feet.
This appearance caused researchers to initially wonder if the remains of the Ugrunaaluk Kuukpikensis may belong to one or several Edmontosaurus, another duck-billed species of dinosaur that roamed the Earth 70 million years ago, in Alberta, Canada, and Montana, South Dakota.
But after taking a closer look at the bone structure of the fossils, Hirotsugu Mori, field expert from the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF), and his colleagues noticed that the skull had certain features that weren’t present in any other duck-billed species known to the scientific community. The area round the mouth was a particularly good hint that they were examining something entirely new.
The findings were published just a few days ago, in Acta Palaeontologica Polonica.