Mar 13, 2014 12:58 PM EDT
Scientists Discover Pygmy Tyrannosaurus Rex That Would Have Roamed Arctic During Late Cretaceous Period
Scientists have discovered the bones of a dinosaur that appears to be a smaller relative of the Tyrannosaurus Rex that lived in Arctic Alaska.
According to the Guardian, the pygmy tyrannosaur would have existed in the northernmost part of an ancient island continent known as Laramidia, which stretches across what is now the U.S. west coast.
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Roaming the Earth during the Late Cretaceous, the pygmy tyrannosaur was half the size of a T. Rex at seven meters from snout to tail and two meters up to its hip.
The researchers published their study in the journal PLOS One and examined fragments of the dinosaur's skull and jaws. The evidence suggests it lived about 70 million years ago and would have lived in Arctic conditions.
"We brought back as many of the rocks as the helicopter would carry, but we laid them aside while we got on with the quarry," study co-author Anthony Fiorillo, a scientist from the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, told the Guardian. "When we finally got around to these pieces, we discovered that we had a tyrannosaur on our hands."
He and co-author Ronald Tykoski camped across a half-mile-wide river from their excavation site and crossed every day by an inflatable raft to climb 250 feet to dig for fossils.
"It wasn't until the past few years, with more work being done on growth rates, that we were able to look at these pieces in finer detail and realise that they weren't a youngster of a known species, but a mature individual of something new," Tykoski told the Guardian. "It is absolutely a pygmy tyrannosaur."
The researchers chose the name Nanuqsaurus hoglundi, or "Nanuq" for short, which comes from an Inupiat word meaning "polar bear." The second name comes from an 80-year-old Dallas entrepreneur and philanthropist named Forrest Hoglund who funded the research.
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"The 'pygmy tyrannosaur' alone is really cool because it tells us something about what the environment was like in the ancient Arctic," Fiorillo said in a press release. "But what makes this discovery even more exciting is that Nanuqsaurus hoglundi also tells us about the biological richness of the ancient polar world during a time when the Earth was very warm compared to today."