Pygmy Tyrannosaur Found in Arctic

A new dinosaur that was a small but close relative of T. rex has been found in Alaska, of all places. Nanuqsaurus hoglundi was only about 20 feet long (shown in blue in the above graph) and lived about 70 million years ago. Paleontologist Tony Fiorillo was part of a team that gathered the bones in 2006 while looking for a different dinosaur in the Prince Creek formation, and only later examined them.

In N. hoglundi's day, northern Alaska—then part of an ancient subcontinent called Larimidia—had weather like modern-day Seattle: seasonally cold but not frigid. The dinosaur likely would have wandered in the valleys beneath majestic snow-capped peaks and hunted other dinosaurs, including a duck-billed species, amid towering sequoias and flower-studded coastal plains, said Fiorillo, who received funding from the National Geographic Society/Waitt Grants Program.

Unlike Seattle, though, the Arctic was still a rough place, with long periods of darkness and light, as well as distinct seasons in which food wasn't readily available. For instance, prey species likely would have exploded in number during the summer, but then fallen off in the dark winter, leaving predators with little to eat.

The name Nanuqsaurus is derived from Nanuq, the Alaska Inupiat word meaning polar bear. Read more about the discovery at National Geographic News.

(Image credit: Anthony R. Fiorillo, Ph.D. and Ronald S. Tykoski, Ph.D.)

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