When you think of a dinosaur habitat like the one depicted in Jurassic Park, you might imagine a hot, humid environment with lush flora. However, a rising collection of data suggests that these prehistoric reptiles roamed considerably colder regions, possibly as far north as the Arctic.
Hundreds of tiny baby dinosaur bones were unearthed in Northern Alaska, implying that polar dinosaurs lived at high latitudes all year. This month, they published their findings in Current Biology.
“People weren’t shocked dinosaurs could live in the Arctic at all not long ago, and now we know they’re reproducing there,” says Patrick Druckenmiller, lead author, and director of the University of Alaska Museum of the North. “And it has a lot of mind-boggling implications for how dinosaurs lived and what kinds of adaptations they had.”
The discovery of cold temperatures Cretaceous animals
In the 1950s, scientists uncovered the first fossilized remnants of Arctic and Antarctic dinosaurs. Most palaeontologists thought the climate, which included months of darkness and snow, would have been too harsh for reptiles to survive.
Palaeontologists proposed two theories after discovering the frost-loving dinosaurs. The initial theory claimed that the creatures lived their entire lives in the tundra. However, another idea anticipated that herbivorous dinosaurs would travel north as temperatures rose and lush greens grew through the thawing ground. Carnivorous dinosaurs followed their prey, and when winter approached, both herbivores and carnivores followed their prey southward again.
Druckenmiller and his crew spent three decades digging up evidence at their field site in Northern Alaska to find the truth. The Cretaceous Prince Creek Formation (PCF), which is one of the best places in the world to study arctic dinosaurs, is found along the bluffs of the Colville River as it merges with the Arctic Ocean.
The scientist traveled three to five days by automobile, helicopter, and boat to reach the paleontological goldmine in rural Alaska. Then they’d set up camp for three weeks along the gravelly banks.
Druckenmiller, who spent many a night wet, muddy, and blasted by the chilly sea breeze, says, “This was truly a labor of love.”
Baby dinosaurs are being dug up.
The researcher discovered minuscule bones at the formation, many of which were too small to belong to a typical small-bodied beast.
“Once we started seeing really small teeth and really small bones that indicated traits of very, very young creatures, it slowly dawned on us that maybe these aren’t simply small kinds of dinosaurs, maybe these are babies,” Druckenmiller explained.
The researchers quickly refilled their food buckets with pounds of silt to transport back to the lab, where they would filter the sand. Under a microscope, every grain larger than half a millimetre—roughly one-third the size of a pinhead—was thoroughly examined.
Thousands of teeth had been unearthed. Scientists discovered that the tiny teeth didn’t just belong to newborn dinosaurs when they compared them to similar dinosaurs from other parts of the world. Some were so little that they could only have come from perinatal dinosaurs, which die when still in the egg or shortly after hatching. The pearly whites were matched to a variety of herbivorous and predatory dinosaurs, including duck-billed, horned, and dome-headed dinosaurs. Even terrifying tyrannosaurids had emerged from the snow.
“We now know that dinosaurs not only lived in the arctic areas, which is incredible in and of itself but that they also reproduced there. And if they were reproducing up there, it’s safe to assume they spent their entire lives in the arctic,” Druckenmiller explained.
These extinct species’ eggs take two to six months, if not longer, to hatch. As a result, if their moms gave birth at the start of spring, the hatchlings had just a few months to grow before winter arrived. As a result, a thousand-mile migratory journey would be impossible.
Dinosaurs and their environments are being reimagined.
Palaeontologists must rethink their concept of dinosaurs given that they spent their whole life at the poles.
The circumpolar organisms were most likely warm-blooded to endure 120 days of continuous darkness and an average temperature of 43 degrees Fahrenheit. To keep warm, they could have been dressed in soft feathers like huge, ancient snowy owls.
“One theory is that dinosaurs hibernated,” says Druckenmiller, “and there’s no reason why we couldn’t uncover something akin to a dinosaur borough where some of the lesser species might have huddled up for the winter.”
Regardless, the findings conjure up images of down-covered dinosaurs scurrying through snow-covered woodlands in another dimension.
“It makes you realize what a different world it was 70 million years ago,” Druckenmiller said. “Alaska, which was even further north at the time, supported forests, and in those trees were wild dinosaurs running about, trying to struggle their way through winter.” “It’s incredible.”