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Dinosaur Discoveries On Alaska’s North Slope Astonish Researchers

Researchers from Florida State University and the University of Alaska Fairbanks have discovered a new type of dinosaur which is believed to have roamed Alaska’s North Slope 70 million years ago.

According to a report issued by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the North Slope was home to twelve known dinosaur types, as well as a possible thirteenth that is not yet confirmed.

This new discovery will add yet another to that list, and researchers believe there may be more to find.

Ugrunaaluk kuukpikensis is the name of the newly discovered dinosaur, and the prehistoric creature was described by scientists as having a duck-like bill on its face.  The arctic animal is not believed to be migratory, meaning it successfully adapted to survive in the cold darkness that the area experiences during winter.

Believed to be vegetarian, the dinosaur grew to be 30 feet in length and could walk on its hind legs or all fours, according to Pat Druckenmiller, earth sciences curator from the University of Alaska Museum in Fairbanks.

Scientists previously thought the region was too inhospitable to support dinosaurs due to its location north of the Arctic Circle.  After all, it is not uncommon for the winter air temperature to fall below -50ºF (-45ºC); in fact, the coldest temperature ever recorded in North America was -81.4ºF (-63ºC) in the nearby Yukon territory on February 3, 1947.

However, the Earth’s climate in the era the dinosaurs lived in was considerably warmer than it is today, lending credence that the dinosaurs could survive in an area that is now known for its brutally cold winters.

The fossils were discovered by the Colville River, about 300 miles northwest of Fairbanks.

More than 6,000 bones have been excavated, and scientists believe that the bones were from a herd of young dinosaurs that for whatever reason, were all killed at the same time.

It appears that a herd of young animals was killed suddenly, wiping out mostly one similar-aged population to create this deposit.

The Washington Post reports that while the area was warmer than it is today, it was still quite cold with an average annual temperature in the lower 40s.  This is about 29ºF warmer than the annual average area experiences today, and is still considered cold by reptilian standards.

“By reptilian standards, that’s pretty chilly,” Druckenmiller explained.  “These were dinosaurs living at the very edge of what we think dinosaurs were physiologically capable of.”

While the area was considerably warmer than it is today, it still should have experienced cold and snow during the months where there is little or no sunlight.

Researchers are fascinated that the dinosaur species they have been discovering were able to survive.

Troodontids, another species discovered in the area, was noted by the BLM to have large eyes that may have been important in the dinosaurs’ ability to see and hunt during twilight hours.

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