Pint-sized tyrannosaur, king of Arctic

2014-03-13 10:50

(Shutterstock)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Washington - A pint-sized tyrannosaur braved the frigid Arctic and feasted on fellow dinosaurs 70 million years ago, according to a report on Wednesday on a new species identified from fossilised skull bones in Alaska.

Scientists have crowned the fierce creature the "polar bear lizard", or Nanuqsaurus hogluind, and they say it stood as tall as a modern man but was half the size of its very close cousin, T Rex, the "lizard king".

An analysis of several skull bones and teeth are described in the journal PLoS ONE by Anthony Fiorillo and Ronald Tykoski of the Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Texas.

Roving across land that was dark for half the year and prone to rainy, snowy and frigid spells, the miniature tyrannosaur likely had a strong sense of smell and may also have had sharp vision to hunt prey at night.

It was also just as big as another common meat-eating dinosaur found in Alaska, the Troodon, Fiorillo.

"To us that is a really cool thing because it is telling us, we think, that there is something about the Arctic environment of 70 million years ago that selected for an optimal body size for a successful predator."

Skull tell a story

The bones were found on a bluff above the Colville River in northern Alaska.

Remains of the much larger T Rex have typically been found further south, scattered across the western United States where the climate would have been warmer.

The area inside the Arctic Circle where the dinosaur bones were found was not as cold 70 million years ago, and was probably on par with modern day Seattle, Washington, or Calgary, Canada.

The tyrannosaur's skull fragments were found in a hole along with a horned dinosaur it likely killed and tried to eat, based on the tooth-size gashes in the plant-eater's bones, researchers said.

At the time of publication, researchers had four bone pieces, some of which were crucial because they showed the head growth of an adult, rather than a juvenile, and allowed scientists to estimate the overall skull size.

Since then, more fragments have been unearthed, Fiorillo said.

"We have a pretty complete picture of the skull roof now. The beauty of that is that the sediment that filled it in preserves the shape of the brain and we can see that this animal also had a well developed sense of smell."

University of Chicago palaeontologist Paul Sereno, who was not involved in the research, described the jaw and skull fragments as "pretty exciting".

When fossils of dinosaurs were first found in the Arctic three decades ago, they were initially mistaken for whale bones.

Early on, some experts believed the dinosaurs may have migrated, or that juveniles would have been unable to survive there, but more recent discoveries have debunked those ideas.

"We couldn't get ourselves to believe that they lived up there in the darkness", Sereno told the media, adding that recent discoveries have changed that way of thinking.

"They must have been managing somehow. We know that reindeer change their diet to eat all sorts of strange things."

The new species's name, Nanuqsaurus hoglundi, is a nod to the Inuit name for polar bear, Nanook, and the natural gas tycoon Forrest Hoglund who helped fund the Texas museum where Arctic dinosaur bones are displayed.
Read more on:    arctic  |  dinosaurs

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
Traffic
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.