NEW DINO MUSEUM: Scattered amongst the sagebrush along the side of Utah’s Highway 191, the dinosaurs are impossible to miss. The life-size sculptures are scientifically grounded representations of the animals that lived around eastern Utah between 235 and 66 million years ago. It is part of an entire Mesozoic menagerie created by the Moab Giants museum and scientific advisor and track expert Martin Lockley. Much of what paleontologists know about dinosaurs have come from their bones. Skeletons show where dinosaurs lived, how they evolved, and how they grew. “Tracks tell us about the dynamic behavior of living animals—walking, running, crouching, limping, traveling in herds”, and more says Lockley. Moab Giants is unique in putting the focus on these tracks through outdoor displays and interactive exhibits inside. “Dinosaur tracks are so much more common than dinosaur bone sites throughout Utah and Colorado”, Lockley says, “and they give important, dynamic information about behavior and ecology.” Moab Giants has 135 full sized dinosaur replicas. Visitors go around the outside walk, starting in the Triassic and working up through the Jurassic into the Cretaceous. Each set of dinosaur models is accompanied by a panel displaying a cast of an original dinosaur footprint found in the area. While some parts of Moab Giants are still under construction, the museum had their soft opening in early September.
A new species of Alaska duckbill dinosaur has been identified from thousands of bones found on the North Slope and housed at the University of Alaska Museum of the North. Ugrunaaluk kuukpikensis, (pronounced oo-GREW-na-luck KOOK-pik-en-sis), is only the fourth dinosaur species unique to Alaska to be described in scientific literature. The name means “ancient grazer” in Inupiaq. It had hundreds of teeth suitable for eating coarse vegetation in the polar forest 70 million years ago. It was 25-30 ft. long and probably lived north of the Arctic Circle year round enduring months of darkness, snow and low temperatures. The museum has at least 6,000 specimens from these duckbills. The skull is different in shape from Edmontosaurus, another hadrosaur that lived further south. It is likely that Alaska dinosaurs existed in their own environment, separate from others of their kind. All of the species found in Alaska’s far north are not found elsewhere. This concentration of Ugrunaaluk bones is thought to have been created when a flood or other disaster wiped out a herd of young animals all at once. It has provided an abundance of material. “We have multiple elements of every single bone in the body,” says Pat Druckenmiller who is the museum’s earth sciences curator. “It is by far the best known dinosaur yet found in the Arctic.”