Duck Billed Dino Discovery

I do love a new dinosaur fossil.

The new addition to the pantheon is a type of duck-billed dinosaur that roamed the polar forests of Alaska some 69 million years ago during the late cretaceous. It was a big old thing, measuring about nine metres in length. It was a herbivore that walked on four legs but could reach up to the juiciest green shoots if necessary. Its name is a bit of a tough one, especially if you don’t speak Inupiat: Ugrunaaluk kuukpikensis. Pronounced oo-GREW-nah-luk kook-pik-EN-sis the first part is a compound word that refers to the Inupiat word for a grazer, ugrunnak, and also their word for old, aluk; and the second word comes from their name for the Colville river near which the bones were found. The authors worked with native speakers to come up with a name that was culturally and geographically appropriate to honour the native Inupiaq people of the region.

Over 30 years researchers from University of Alaska and Florida State painstakingly analysed thousands of bone fragments mostly from juveniles of the species. Average temperatures at the time would have been around the 4 degrees Celsius mark and there would have also been extremes of light and darkness during the winter and summer months. The findings were published open access in Acta Paleontologica Polonica and represent not just a new species but a whole new genus too.

And it looks awesome.

Ugrunaaluk kuukpikensis, painting by James Havens
Ugrunaaluk kuukpikensis, painting by James Havens
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