A new species of dinosaur recently discovered in Alaska is a duck-billed version probably more closely related to birds, said a team of researchers, and may be just the first in the Arctic region.
The dinosaur may have had scales to keep warm and probably lived year-round while handling freezing temperatures and months in the dark and snow, believe scientists from Florida State University and the University of Alaska Fairbanks, according to WFSU Public Radio.
The skeletal remains of the newest dinosaur, named Ugrunaaluk kuukpikensis, were found in a remote part of Alaska believed to the northernmost dinosaurs were known to have ever lived, according to an FSU statement.
The bones were discovered along the Colville River in a geological formation in northern Alaska known as the Prince Creek Formation.
"The finding of dinosaurs this far north challenges everything we thought about a dinosaur's physiology," said Greg Erickson, a professor of biological science at Florida State. "It creates this natural question. How did they survive up here?"
The discovery of the dinosaur, which was highlighted in the latest edition of the paleontology journal Acta Palaeontogica Polonica this week, was found in an area that was an arctic coastal flood plain about 69 million years ago. It was above what was known as the paleo-Arctic Circle.
"This new study names and brings to life what is now the most completely known species of dinosaur from the Polar Regions," said Patrick Druckenmiller, Earth sciences curator of the University of Alaska Museum of the North.
Brian Switek of National Geographic
said the discovery of dinosaurs so far north gives many a drastically different look of creatures that had been viewed as surviving in warmer climates.
"But, no doubt influenced by 'Fantasia' and the 'monkey puzzles and parking lots' style of paleo art, I envisioned all those little specks as steaming swamps or lush floodplains in an endless dinosaurian summer," Switek wrote for National Geographic. "The thought of dinosaurs striding through the snow didn't occur to me at all."
"The image of tyrannosaurs, horned dinosaurs, and hadrosaurs walking through the cool forests of ancient Alaska has run so counter to the classic Mesozoic imagery that it's not surprising that this environment has been the subject of several recent documentaries and even a feature film," he added.
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