Some Dinosaurs Lived in the Snow

James Havens
James Havens / James Havens

A new dino find is rewriting what scientists thought they knew about the habitats and range of dinosaurs. Researchers from Florida State University and the University of Alaska Fairbanks have discovered the remains of a 30-foot-long duck-billed dinosaur near the Colville River at the tippy-top of Alaska, the northernmost dinosaur species yet discovered.

Named Ugrunaaluk kuukpikensis, the dinosaur likely experienced dark winters and snow, unlike other dinosaurs that have been discovered farther south. The species appears to be related to other duck-billed dinosaurs that lived around 70 million years ago in Alberta, Montana, and South Dakota, but has a unique skull structure that distinguishes it as a species. 

The herbivore would have lived at a latitude around 80 degrees north, high up in the Arctic. While the climate was warmer at that time than it is now, the species probably still endured average winter temperatures of around 43 degrees Fahrenheit and likely saw snow. Even in a warmer climate, the winters would have been dark in that polar environment. 

"What we're finding is basically this lost world of dinosaurs with many new forms completely new to science," Greg Erickson, a co-author of the study in the journal Acta Palaeontologica Polonica, said in a press release. This discovery “challenges everything we thought about a dinosaur's physiology,” he said. Previously, however, scientists had discovered dinosaurs that dwelled far south of the equator, in Australia, another locale that would have been cold and dark for months at a time. 

The mystery of how such a dinosaur adapted to live in the snow, however, is still unsolved.