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Researchers discover first ever dinosaur bones found in Denali National Park

October 31, 2016:

by Cameron Mackintosh

Paleontologists have unearthed the first dinosaur fossils ever to be found in Denali National Park.

The historic discovery was made in July by an expedition of researchers from the University of Alaska Fairbanks and the National Park Service, according to a Tuesday press release. The team discovered four different fossil fragments as well as several new fossilized footprints known as "dinosaur trackways."

Trackways dating back to the Late Cretaceous Period were first found in Denali National Park in 2005, and since then paleontologists have found thousands more, the Park Service says. But this is the first time researchers have discovered dinosaur bones inside the park.

“The research team found four different fragments, including one ossified tendon. The largest is a few inches long,” the National Parks Service wrote. “They are clearly parts of bigger bones from a large animal, ruling out all other animals with a backbone known from this geological period, including mammals, birds and even flying reptiles.”

According to researchers, the bones are believed to be that of a “large ornithopod dinosaur, probably a hadrosaur.”

“These duck-billed, herbivorous dinosaurs were probably the most abundant large animals in Alaska and the primary trackmakers in the park during this time period,” park officials wrote.

Researchers believe the fragments they found are parts of much larger bones that may still be buried in the park. Pat Druckenmiller, curator of earth sciences at the University of Alaska Museum of the North, is leading a project to continue exploring the area over the next several years, the Park Service said.

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



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