Alaskan Cousin to the T-Rex Discovered

N. hoglundiThe Tyrannosaurus Rex (Also known as T-Rex), a carnivorous dinosaur from  the Cretaceous Period is probably one of the most famous dinosaurs that people are familiar with, featured prominently in the logo for the Jurassic Park film series for example. However there is now a new relative of the T-Rex, as the fossils of a recently discovered species were found in the Kikak-Tegoseak quarry in Alaska.

This new species, named Nanuqsaurus hoglundi (“Nanuq” meaning “polar bear” in the language of the Inupiat people of Alaska, whereas “hoglundi” is a reference to Forrest Hoglund who was a fundraiser for the Perot Museum) was roughly twenty-five feet long, while the skull alone was twenty-five inches long and the whole creature supposedly weighed one thousand pounds.

Tyrannosaur size comparisons
A. (blue) represents N. hoglundi, while B. and C. (green) represent T-Rex

The bones were originally found in 2006, although it was believed at the time that they belonged to a juvenile T-Rex. As Ron Tykoski of the Perot Museum stated, research towards growth rates was what allowed them to discover that the fossils were not of a juvenile of a large species, but rather a matured specimen of a smaller species. For example, along the upper jaws’ edge are distinctive sockets that are only found in the jawbones of adult T-Rex’s. There is also a ridge with a very distinct shape found on the head of the creature, which further indicates the T-Rex’s close relationship to N. hoglundi.

Like its larger cousin, N. hoglundi is believed to have been a carnivore that preyed on other dinosaurs. Other skeletons that were uncovered in Alaska include dinosaurs with duck-bills, known as Edmontosaurus as well as Pachyrhinosaurus, a lesser-known cousin to the more famous Triceratops. One specimen of Pachyrhinosaurus was discovered in the same location as N. hoglundi (It was this finding in 2006 which led to the discovery of N. hoglundi), and the herbivore’s bones were found to have grooves and teeth marks on them. This causes experts to believe that N. hoglundi preyed on the nearby herbivore species to help it survive the cooler environment.

The environment N. hoglundi was discovered in also raises questions for scientists, because even though the Earth during the Late Cretaceous was much warmer there would still have been less resources and sunlight in Alaska. While Tyrannosaurus Rex was known to have inhabited North America, life for its smaller cousin in this region would have been much more difficult. This also contradicts Bergmann’s Rule, which was developed in 1847 by Carl Bergmann. The rule states that species that live in colder climates (Such as humans or mammals) adapt to the environment by generally being larger than specimens that live in warmer climates to maintain body heat.

Yutyrannus 2
Artist’s depiction of Yutyrannus

One theory as to how dinosaurs survived in the region is that the duck-billed creatures huddled together, similar to penguins. Other theories suggest that dinosaurs living there migrated or hibernated, although there is no evidence to back them up. It is also suggested that N. hoglundi possessed feathers to protect against the cold, similar to Yutyrannus, which lived in China and is the largest feathered dinosaur.

Although the creature itself is something of an enigma, it certainly fuels the hope that there are plenty more species of dinosaurs left to discover, while changing our perceptions of what the prehistoric world was like.

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