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Logo bar of the Alaska Public Lands Information Center which are located in Anchorage, Fairbanks, Tok and Ketchikan
View of Mt. Redoubt releasing some steam at sunset
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Alaskan Dinosaurs
 
A couple of people are digging on a ridge
Paleontologist excavating bones in the Colville River
BLM

Dinosaurs in Alaska
Dinosaurs arrived in Alaska during the Cretaceous Period. The first dinosaur bone in Alaska was discovered by accident in 1961. Originally, the bone was thought to be from the Ice Age, but in 1984 it was discovered to be a dinosaur bone. The first dinosaur found in northern Alaska was a Edmontonia skull that dated back 90 million years ago, making it the oldest hadrosaur found in Alaska. The 'duck-billed' Edmontosaurus is thought to have lived in groups or even herds. The Edmontosaurus was about ten feet tall, forty feet long, and ate plants. In the nearby Colville River a large collection of dinosaur bones was found in the mid 1980's. There were more fossils located in that area than in any other polar location in the world! Twelve different types of dinosaurs were discovered in this area. Today most paleontology in Alaska is done around the Colville River. Some of the dinosaur bones in the Colville River contain the actual bone tissue that was in the dinosaur. In fact, many of the bones are not completely mineralized; some have been found with 50% real bone tissue. Some of the Edmontosaurus bones on display in the federal building in Anchorage contain a large percentage of real dinosaur bone tissue. The exhibit sign reading "Jurassic Park-Alaska" may be truer than we think!

The discovery of dinosaurs in the northern regions of Alaska sparked the question: How did these dinosaurs survive the winters? There are two main theories on how they survived. Either they slowed down their metabolisms (maybe even hibernating), or they migrated south towards warmer climates. Discoveries at the Colville River dinosaur site in the later 1980's and early 1990's have thrown doubt on the migration theory. Several of the newer dinosaur types were not larger herd-type animals and probably could not have physically migrated a round-trip distance estimated to be more than 5,000 miles. This distance would have been greater than today's "migration champion," the caribou, which migrate less than half this distance. No land mammals migrate out of the Arctic today, so to think that dinosaurs did seems to be a stretch of the imagination.

Another mystery about dinosaurs is how they became extinct. If they died off due to a meteorite or comet smacking the earth and throwing up dust to block out the sun, then why did certain other reptiles--including crocodiles and snakes--survive? Why did most of the non-dinosaur type animals that lived at that time survive? Furthermore, since most paleontologists now think that birds are the living descendants of dinosaurs, why and how did they survive? Could the "Impact Theory" be wrong? A few paleontologists have suggested that some type of disease may have played a factor, others have pointed to new evidence of possible climatic changes. Also noted was that changing vegetation could have been unfavorable to some types of the dinosaurs. The latest thinking by paleontologists is that dinosaurs died off from a combination of causes.



Three silhouettes of three different types of dinosaurs.

Where to see dinosaur remains in Alaska
Bureau of Land Management Resource Library & Bureau of Land Management Public Room
First Floor of the New Federal Building
222 W. 7th Ave.
Anchorage, AK 99501
(907) 271-5960
Display includes: fossil bone remains from a Edmontosaurus, interpretive photos and information.
http://www.blm.gov/ak/st/en/res/pub_room.html

University of Alaska Museum
907 Yukon Drive,
Fairbanks, AK 99775
(907) 474-7505
Displays include: remains of the Edmonosaurus, skin impressions from an Arctic dinosaur, cast of a Pachyrhinosaurus skull similar to one found in Alaska, as well as other interpretive information.
http://www.uaf.edu/museum/

Wasilla Museum
323 N. Main Street
Wasilla, AK 99654
(907) 376-2005
Displays Include: fossil skill of a Nodosaurid ankylosaur and interpretive information.
http://www.cityofwasilla.com/departments-divisions/museum



A pachyrinosaurus, a type of dinosaur that walks on four legs, is of medium size, has a long tale, and who's face is similar to a rhino.
BLM
A pachyrhinosaurus, one of the many dinosaurs that lived in Alaska

If you have any further questions about dinosaurs, fossils, or any related subject, contact:
The Bureau of Land Management
222 West 7th Avenue, #13
Anchorage, AK 99513-7599
(907) 271-5960

 



A picture of an albertosaurus, a long, skinny dinosaur that walks on two legs.
BLM
An albertosarus
Kids Dinosaur Coloring Page (PDF)
click HERE

National Fossil Day
Click here to learn more about the celebration.

Dinosaur Education Kit for Teachers available in Anchorage
click HERE





 
Two thin spruce tree trunks in silhouette on the left side of the frame. The background is a lush, brightly lit forest. Did You Know?
The Tongass National Forest of southeast Alaska is the largest National Forest in the United States at 17 million acres.