Dinosaur bone fragments were discovered this summer in Denali National Park by a team of University of Alaska Fairbanks and National Park Service scientists.
The researchers found the bones on a mountain slope in the Cantwell rock formation, north of the Park Road.
Dinosaur tracks have previously been found in similar rock in the park, and UA Museum of the North earth sciences curator Pat Druckenmiller said the bones are an exciting development.
“Because tracks can give you a certain type of information, but bones can add a lot more to that story,” he said.
The bone fragments were likely from a duck-billed dinosaur, which were common in Alaska more than 70 million years ago, he said, noting that one of the bones provides more specific insight.
”It’s called an ossified tendon and it’s really distinctive for the group so we can probably say with some certainty that we know at least what one kind of animal was making tracks there,” Druckenmiller said.
The discovery may be from a species he and colleagues discovered along the Colville River on North Slope. Druckenmiller, who has done field research around the world, says the bones are less than 2 inches in length, but stand out to team members trained eyes, in the rocky terrain.
“Because they tend to weather a lighter color, a bluish color,” he said. “And it has a very distinctive texture just like modern bone.”
Druckenmiller is optimistic more bones will be discovered in the area of this summer’s find.
“We found these bones actually on our first day out so I think that bodes well for future discoveries.”
The Denali research team will continue to explore the area in future summers, as part of the collaboration which also includes Florida State University professor Greg Erickson.