Fossils of New Hadrosaur Species Found on North Slope of Alaska

Posted on September 22, 2015

Ugrunaaluk kuukpikensis, Alaskan hadrosaur species

Researchers have discovered a new species of hadrosaur that once roamed the North Slope of Alaska in herds. The duck-billed dinosaur would have experienced darkness for months at a time as well as periods of snowfall. The researchers worked with specimens at the University of Alaska Museum of the North.

The hadrosaur has been named Ugrunaaluk kuukpikensis. It was 30 feet long and is described as a "superb chewer" by the scientists. It had hundreds of individual teeth that would have enabled it to chew up coarse vegetation. The dinosaur is also described as the "northern-most dinosaur."

Earth sciences curator Pat Druckenmiller says most of the bones came from the Liscomb Bone Bed, which is located along the Colville River. The fossil site is named after Robert Liscomb, who found the first dinosaur bones in Alaska while mapping along the Colville River for Shell Oil.

There have been many bones of the hadrosaur discovered. The museum scientists have excavated and cataloged over 6,000 bones from the new species at the site. Most of the bones belong to small juveniles estimated to have been about 9 feet long and 3 feet tall at the hips. The scientists think the hadrosaur herd was wiped out suddenly.

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

Druckenmiller also says, "Ugrunaaluk is far and away the most complete dinosaur yet found in the Arctic or any polar region. We have multiple elements of every single bone in the body. So far, all dinosaurs from the Prince Creek Formation that we can identify as species are distinct from those found anywhere else. The recognition of Ugrunaaluk kuukpikensis provides further evidence that the dinosaurs living in polar latitudes in what is now Alaska were not the same species found from the same time periods in lower latitudes."

A research paper on the new species was published here in the journal, Acta Palaeontologica Polonica.

Image: James Havens