Researchers look for evidence of dinosaurs in Denali

FAIRBANKS — This summer’s discovery of dinosaur bones in Denali National Park has opened the door for more remains to be found, researchers say.

Paleontologists from the University of Alaska Fairbanks and the National Park Service uncovered the bones during a July expedition. The trip also turned up new dinosaur trackways, fossilized impressions the animals left by walking through mud that later hardened into stone.

Pat Druckenmiller, curator of earth sciences at the University of Alaska Museum of the North, said the discovery marks the beginning of a yearslong effort to locate, document and study fossils in Denali National Park.

“This is a world-class site for tracks of dinosaurs and other animals that lived in Alaska during the Cretaceous Period,” Druckenmiller said in a news release from the Fairbanks museum. “Now that we have found bones, we have another way to understand the dinosaurs that lived here 70 million years ago.”

The researchers only found four small fragments during their summer expedition, but Druckenmiller said the pieces are evidence of bigger bones from a large animal.

One of the pieces is a fossilized tendon likely from a hadrosaur, a large duck-billed plant-eating dinosaur that was abundant in Alaska during the Cretaceous. Hadrosaurs left behind most of the tracks found in the park, The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.

Paleontologists have been finding dinosaur footprints in Denali National Park for more than a decade. Druckenmiller said there was no record of dinosaurs in the park before 2005, when UAF students discovered the first track in the Cantwell Formation near Igloo Creek. Thousands of other tracks have been found since then.

“Finding these bones opens a new chapter in the story of Denali dinosaurs,” Druckenmiller said. “That story is still being written as we find new sites, new kinds of dinosaurs and evidence of their behavior.”

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Information from: Fairbanks (Alaska) Daily News-Miner, http://www.newsminer.com

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