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Wednesday, September 23, 2015 - Page updated at 08:00 p.m.

Scientists identify new duck-billed dinosaur species in Alaska

By DAN JOLING
The Associated Press

ANCHORAGE — Researchers have uncovered a new species of plant-eating dinosaur in Alaska, according to a report published Tuesday.

The animal was a variety of hadrosaur, a duck-billed dinosaur that roamed in herds, said Pat Druckenmiller, earth-sciences curator at the University of Alaska Museum in Fairbanks.

Northern Alaska likely was once covered by forest in a warmer climate. The dinosaur lived in darkness for months and probably experienced snow, researchers said.

The fossils were found in rock deposited 69 million years ago.

For at least 25 years, the fossils were lumped in with another hadrosaur, Edmontosaurus, a species well-known in Canada and the U.S., including Montana and South Dakota. The formal study of the Alaska dinosaur revealed differences in skull and mouth features that made it a different species, Druckenmiller said.

The differences were not immediately apparent because the Alaska dinosaurs were juveniles. Researchers teased out differences in the Alaska fossils, Druckenmiller said, by plotting growth trajectories and by comparing them with juvenile Edmontosaurus bones.

Researchers have dubbed the creature Ugrunaaluk kuukpikensis. The name means “ancient grazer” and was chosen by scientists with assistance from speakers of Inupiaq, the language of Alaska Inupiat Eskimos.

The dinosaurs grew up to 30 feet long. Hundreds of teeth helped them chew coarse vegetation, researchers said. They probably walked primarily on their hind legs but could walk on four legs, Druckenmiller said.


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