Most might already be familiar with the sight of a Tyrannosaurus Rex running through a field from the Jurassic Park films. Now replicate the exact image replacing a woodland terrain with an arctic landscape and instead of a tall and frightening T-Rex just picture a dinosaur half its size. This is how the arctic was probably like during the time of the dinosaurs.
Paleontologists unearthed a close relative of the T-Rex in the ice caps of Alaska. This new species was called the Nanuqsaurus hoglundi which roughly translate to polar bear lizard in the native Alaskan Inupiat language. Unlike their distant cousins, this species was just 20 feet( 6 meters) long with an average skull size of 64 centimeter. The Nanuqsaurus were just as tall as the modern human male standing at just 2 meters high at the hip.
The discovery of the species was almost overlooked at first in 2006. During the excavation of some 70-million years old rocks paleontologist Tony Fiorillo discovered what appeared to be skull and bone specimen. Occupied by the search of another type of dinosaur he completely ignored them and moved on. It wasn’t until later on when Fiorillo recalled the specimen and realized he had indeed found a new species of dinosaurs. As Fiorillo said there were some things that just stick to the back of your head.
What is quite interesting about the Nanuqsaurus is its miniature size. Being closely related to one of the biggest land lizards to have ever lived, many expected this distant cousin to be of the same size. Some paleontologists believe a difference in atmosphere is responsible for this variation. The arctic all those years back was not as cold as today but was still known for its long dark knight and icy weathers. Perhaps it was impossible for gigantic creatures to survive and the Nanuqsaurus adapted to survive by shrinking in size.
Noted paleontologist at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Museum of Natural History said that this was rather an interesting discovery. In the world of today we often find arctic animals to be the largest of their species. For example the polar bear is the largest of the known bears in the world. Maybe what is true today might not have been the rule back when these dinosaurs walked the earth.
Further detail about this new species is still unclear about which paleontologist can do no more than just speculate. Details like the social behavior and the role they played in the ecosystem are still anyone’s guess. Although it is believed that just like its relative the Nanuqsaurus was a carnivorous predator who often hunted other dinosaurs for food. Similarly like other species of the tyrannosaurs the N.hoglundi had a coat of fuzz around them. Judging from the sort of atmosphere they lived it is believed that their fuzz was probably much more thicker than all the other species.
While it is surprising to discover a new species there is still a lot that can be found. Grant Zazula of the Yukon Government said that the arctic was littered with dinosaur fossils. There are still many discoveries that can be made as the area for most parts is still uncharted territory. This new finding would probably help light the path for further excavations and expeditions which would help better understand a place these creatures called home.
By Hammad Ali