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Dinosaurs of the Arctic Thrived in Cold Darkness

Some 70 million years ago a group of hardy dinosaurs thrived in the harsh climate of what is now Alaska

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A few more sweeps with the whisk broom, and the bone at my knees suddenly came into focus. I was looking at the snout of a Pachyrhinosaurus, a particularly odd horned dinosaur, a rare relative of Triceratops. It was not the first, or even the second, fossil of this creature found in Alaska, but I could already see parts of this skull that were not preserved on the other specimens. Continued excavation at the site—with picks and shovels supplementing our whisk brooms—yielded the bones and teeth of at least three other dinosaur species. It would take another trip for me to realize we were also crawling over 10 more skulls of Pachyrhinosaurus. Most individuals were close in age and had probably died together in a flood or other catastrophe. This grouping was the first evidence that horned dinosaurs north of the Arctic Circle behaved gregariously.

I had come to this remote spot on a bluff overlooking the Colville River in the summer of 2006 with colleagues from the Perot Museum of Nature and Science and Southern Methodist University to excavate the skull of a Pachyrhinosaurus I had found in 2002. We undertook a massive excavation from 2005 to 2007.

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