Alaska is monikered as “The Final Frontier” for plenty of reasons. The state boasts a raw sense of adventure unique to its sweeping landscape, diverse ecology and towering peaks. Whether you’re here hiking Denali or scouting for polar bears, Alaska offers adventure for those who want it. But did you know Alaska is also known as the gateway for dinosaurs migrating to North America from Asia?
In 2012, Anthony Fiorillo, the chief curator and vice president of research and collections at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, theorized that Alaska could have been the passageway for animals between Western North America and Asia 70 million years ago, according to an article in sci-news. Consequently, Alaska is home to many North America’s iconic dinosaur lineages, many of which weren’t discovered until the late 1980s.
If you’re working in Alaska or visiting the area, you can see many of the local species as fossils and reconstructions at the Alaska Museum of Science and Nature in Anchorage.
Occasionally, the Museum of the North at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, also has dinosaur exhibits. If you visit Fairbanks when the museum doesn’t have any dinosaurs, there are still plenty of other things to do.
Here are our four favorite dinosaurs found in Alaska.
The Pachyrhinosaurus, a large, sturdy herbivore with prominent curved horns on its frill and skull, was discovered by Charles M. Sternberg in 1946. These dinosaurs grew up to 26 feet long and weighed about four tons. Pachyrhinosaurus roamed together as packs across a surprisingly large range in Alaska and Alberta about 73.5 to 72.5 million years ago. Paleontologists excavated the Alaska dinosaur, Pachyrhinosaurus known as P. perotorum named after Texan billionaire Ross Perot. This horned dinosaur gained recent popularity in the 2013 movie, Walking with Dinosaurs: The Movie, and it was also the official mascot of the 2010 Arctic Winter Games.
Gorgosaurus – Tyrannosauridae
Gorgosaurus, the “fierce lizard,” is a member of the Tyrannosauridae family, which is famously captained by the Tyrannosaurus Rex. However, unlike the famed T-Rex or its close relative the Albertosaurus, Gorgosaurus is smaller, slimmer and has longer legs, allowing it to outrun much of the competition — fellow predators and prey alike. Gorgosaurus is an apex predator who roamed Alaska’s North Slope, Montana and Canada around 76.6 to 75.1 million years ago. The carnivore, first described by Lawrence Lambe in 1914, grew to about 30 feet in length and weighed around 2.8 tons. Gorgosaurus is among the more studied dinosaurs because it is the best-represented tyrannosaurid in the fossil record, allowing paleontologists to investigate its life history and ontogeny.
Edmontosaurus – Hadrosaur
The Edmontosaurus is an herbivore with up to 2,000 teeth, six rows deep, that roamed north of the Arctic Circle through Alberta and parts of Alaska. Edmontosaurus lived 76 to 64 million years ago and was one of the last non-avian dinosaurs to explore the Earth. This Alaska dinosaur was relatively small compared to its peers, roughly the size of a modern elephant. It moved on two or four legs, weighed up to four tons and grew to 43 feet in length. Edmontosaurus was named in 1917 by Lawrence Lambe, despite Othniel Charles Marsh discovering the species in 1892. Unlike many of its herbivorous peers, Edmontosaurus didn’t have any armor or natural weapons, so the species likely moved around in large herds for protection.
Troodon – Maniraptoran
Troodon is theorized to be the smartest dinosaur and among the smartest creatures in the Campanian age of the Cretaceous period, although it’s intellectual capabilities are estimated to be lower than a house cat. This small, bird-like omnivore thrived 76 million years ago and was named by Joseph Leidy in 1856. The swift-moving dinosaur stood about 11 feet tall and weighed roughly 110 pounds.
Alaska has a lot of unique attractions worth exploring, and its rich paleontological history is one aspect many people overlook. Learning more about Alaska’s rich history and the world before ours is a great way to spend a relaxing day off in Anchorage or Fairbanks.
Living in Alaska gives you the opportunity to get to know the area and see things that most tourists miss. Make Alaska your home by working for us. Take a look at our current job openings to see what catches your interest.