It’s not a surprise that dinosaurs dominated the Earth millions of years ago. They were incredibly versatile and could weather some pretty dramatic environmental conditions.
A new species, Ugrunaaluk kuukpikensis , is no exception. Paleontologists just discovered this dinosaur’s fossils in the frigid, upper reaches of Alaska. In the Inuit language Inupiaq, its name means “ancient grazer of the Colville River.” The climate in which U. kuukpikensis lived was harsh, but not as cold as the Arctic Circle is today. Still, this species of hadrosaur probably had to withstand some snow, as well as months of complete darkness. During that period of time, it would have had to survive on twigs and bark.
Here’s Nicholas Bakalar, writing for the New York Times:
“It had crests along its back like Godzilla,” said one of its discoverers, Gregory M. Erickson, a professor of biological sciences at Florida State University. The dinosaur’s jaw was lined with at least 1,000 teeth with coarse surfaces perfect for pulverizing plants.
U. kuukpikensis belongs to the hadrosaur group of duck-billed dinosaurs. It was 25 to 30 feet long, six or seven feet high at the hip, and probably covered with scales. While its front legs were much shorter than its back legs, it could walk on all fours.
This isn’t the first dinosaur species to be found in northern Alaska, but it does support an emerging theory that dinosaurs weren’t restricted to temperate or equatorial regions.
Arctic dinosaurs appear unique to the north, and they suggest that—in order to adapt—their physiology might be far removed from what scientists already know about most dinosaurs.