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Paleontologists Discover "Tween" Dinosaur In Alaska

Illustration by Karen Carr
A display featuring the adult Pachyrhinosaurus perotorum is installed in the T. Boone Pickens Life Then and Now Hall at the Perot Museum.

One hole in the ground of Alaska has revealed a second great surprise. Paleontologists from the Perot Museum of Nature and Sciencein Dallas have uncovered a baby dinosaur in the same spot they uncovered a new species of dinosaur years ago.

Meet the tween version of “Pachyrhinosaurusperotorum,” or the “thick-nosed reptile.”

The adult version was discovered by paleontologist Anthony Fiorillo in 2006. Neither Fiorillo or Ron Tykoski, who is fossil preparator at the museum, had any idea the quarry in Northern Alaska held anything but adult fossils.

“And then all of sudden we had this little surprise come out of a block of rock,” Tykosky says.

It’s changed how they see the species. We’ve known about dinosaurs living in Alaska for decades, but Tykoski says one of the great questions was whether 70 million years ago these animals were living in that harsh cold year round or migrating for warmer weather in the winter. Now, there’s an answer.

“This particular little specimen of an only partially-grown animal sort of suggests to us they were occupying this environment all year,” Tykosky says. “Northern Alaska was evidently a nice place to live if you were a big lumpy-faced, plant eating dinosaur.”

One of the key features of the species is its big head – which has a battering ram-like bulge. Tykosky says the newly found younger skull, which has a more narrow horn on the snout, suggests that its after puberty that big lump grows and thickens into, well...

“Definitely only a face a mother could love.”

The scientific paper describing the find –was just published in the science journal PLOS ONE

Lauren Silverman was the Health, Science & Technology reporter/blogger at KERA News. She was also the primary backup host for KERA’s Think and the statewide newsmagazine  Texas Standard. In 2016, Lauren was recognized as Texas Health Journalist of the Year by the Texas Medical Association. She was part of the Peabody Award-winning team that covered Ebola for NPR in 2014. She also hosted "Surviving Ebola," a special that won Best Long Documentary honors from the Public Radio News Directors Inc. (PRNDI). And she's won a number of regional awards, including an honorable mention for Edward R. Murrow award (for her project “The Broken Hip”), as well as the Texas Veterans Commission’s Excellence in Media Awards in the radio category.