Scientists Discover T-Rex Cousin That Once Roamed the Arctic

Mar 13, 2014 09:37 AM EDT | Matt Mercuro

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A new species of dinosaur that roamed the Arctic some 70 million years ago has been discovered, according to a recently released study.

Research was published in the newest edition of the journal PLOS-ONE.

The newly discovered species, Nanuqsaurus hoglundi, is a tiny cousin of the Tyrannosaurus rex that lived in northern Alaska on the Beaufort Sea, close to the Yukon border.

Analysis of the discovered fossils was conducted and reported by Anthony Fiorillo and Ronald Tykoski of the Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Texas.

Fiorillo said that the discovered fossil fragments of the jaw and skull were found in the Prince Creek Formation.

"We have a pretty complete picture of the skull roof now. The beauty of that is that the sediment that filled it in preserves the shape of the brain and we can see that this animal also had a well-developed sense of smell," Fiorillo said, according to AFP.

Fiorillo confirmed that the pint size dinosaur was about half the size of a T. Rex, standing less than three meters high, with a skull 64 centimeters long, according to the journal.

The team of researchers believe that the dino was smaller because it had to adapt to the arctic climate, which was warmer than it is now and forested during the Cretaceous period.

"To us that is a really cool thing because it is telling us, we think, that there is something about the Arctic environment of 70 million years ago that selected for an optimal body size for a successful predator," Fiorillo said, according to AFP.

The "polar bear lizard," as it's been nicknamed, likely had a strong sense of smell, and sharp vision in order to hunt prey at night.

The fossils found in the Arctic three decades ago were initially mistaken for whale bones.

Previously some experts believed the dinosaurs may have migrated or that juveniles weren't able to survive in the Arctic, but recent discoveries have debunked that notion.

"We couldn't get ourselves to believe that they lived up there in the darkness," University of Chicago paleontologist Paul Sereno said, according to AFP. "They must have been managing somehow. We know that reindeer change their diet to eat all sorts of strange things."

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