At the Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas, Texas, two paleontologist have discovered a dinosaur that was previously unrecognized by science, a smaller version of the savage Tyrannosaurus Rex. The pygmy dinosaur, the cousin of the Tyrannosaurus Rex, scientifically known as Nanuqsaurus hoglundi, inhabited the Arctic Circle, at what is now northern Alaska about 70 million years ago. The first part of his name Nanuqsaurus, is derived from the native Inupiat word “nanook” which means polar bear and the second part hoglundi is a tribute to natural gas tycoon, Forrest Hoglund who financed the operation that led to the fossil discovery. He was half the size of his T-Rex cousin and only had seven percent of his body weight. He had a skull that was a little over 25 inches, stood six feet high at the hip and his body was covered in thick fur to shield him from the climate conditions. His skull gave evidence of him having larger scent receptors that were used to hunt down prey.
The discovery of this pygmy dinosaur reveals some information about the environment of ancient Arctic and his adaptability. It is known Tyrannosaurus Rex’s cousin inhabited the Arctic Circle during the late Cretaceous period. The ancient Arctic Circle contrasts to what we know today, it was a coastal plain, with the Arctic Ocean to the north and to the south were snow-capped mountains. However, the Arctic was a lot warmer and had terrain covered by tall, conifer forests and flowering plants. The ancient Arctic had similar climate conditions to western Canada today. The mini T-Rex was inhibited from growing too large due to the prey cycles of the Arctic seasons. Food supply would have been bountiful in the summertime but during the winter months it was likely scarce.
The species has been identified by skull and jaw bone fragments that were found in 2006 at the Kikak-Tegoseak quarry on the North Slope near the Yukon border. In the scientific journal PLOS ONE, it was reported on March 12, that originally the fossils were assumed to be the remains of a younger variant of a known tyrannosaurid species Gorgosaurus, Albertosaurus sarcophagus. However upon further research, the bone fragments did not match the Albertosaurus and showed discrepancies in evolutionary and geographical gaps between other tyrannosaur species.
In the same hole the mini T-Rex was found, scientist also came upon the Pachyrhinosaurus, a cousin of the triceratops. These two new discoveries of dinosaurs in the Arctic have researchers questioning if Canada was home to these predators. During the late Cretaceous period, the Brooks range was more expansive than it is today and that would have prevented the dinosaurs from traversing southward. However, Canada was connected by a coastal plain, so it would not be a surprise that North Slope dinosaurs roamed to that part of Canada. A paleontologist for the Yukon government, Grant Zazula, stated that northern Alaska and the Arctic of Canada are mostly uncharted territories of vast lands littered with dinosaur fossils. With the discovery of Tyrannosaurus Rex’s cousin inhabiting the Arctic Circle, the area will open doors to future research of paleobiology.
By Isriya Kendrick