Fossil Friday - We love digging bones out of the dirt. And footprints, and petrified wood, and all kinds of other fossilized materials. These photos are of work done over the past few decades on Alaska’s North Slope.

The UA Museum of the North hosts the largest collection of Arctic dinosaur fossils in the world.The first North Slope dinosaur bones were discovered in the mid-1980s. They were from the “duck-billed” Edmontosaurus, which as fully-grown adults could reach 10 feet tall, 40 feet long, and weigh three tons. These plant-eaters are thought to have lived in social groups or even herds.

Newer discoveries along the Colville River include Troodon and Dromaeosaurus (both smaller flesh-eaters), as well as juvenile hadrosaurs. North Slope dinosaurs may have survived year-round in ancient long-gone river systems which supported lush summer vegetation. Enough seasonal plant matter may have grown during the 24-hour sunlit summers to last during the cool-to-cold dark days of winter (though not as harsh as today’s North Slope winters). The plant-eating dinosaurs, in turn, would have been the over-wintering food source of the meat-eaters.

From the BLM Alaska Dinosaur page.

Other Dinosaur Fossils found on the North Slope

  • North Slope, various locations: 1970s and later, mostly limited discoveries of dinosaur skin imprints and footprints in different areas.

  • North Slope, Colville River drainage: 1998 discovery of major trackways which provide evidence of seven different meat- and plant-eating dinosaurs including the oval-shaped tracks of a yet unknown species; the new discoveries date from the Middle Cretaceous, about 90-110 million years ago.


The bottom photo shows what happens when the plaster casts, bone bits, and fossilized materials are brought to the museum and prepared as specimens.

EXPEDITION DINOSAURS — Each summer, Anchorage mural artist James Havens works with both scientists and the public to create a new mural featuring dinosaurs.This year, Earth Sciences Curator Pat Druckenmiller is helping him depict a herd of hadrosaurs. The artist answered a few questions for us and shared some photos of his “Painting with Dinosaurs” installation.

1) How did you get interested in painting dinosaur murals? What was the first species you painted? I have always had an interest in dinosaurs. As discoveries started happening here in Alaska, I couldn’t help but be inspired. My first painting featuring a dinosaur was Albertosaurus, which lived in Alaska during the Cretaceous Period. The painting also featured Anchiceratops, which was listed in BLM’s dinosaur list at the time. The release happened to fall on the date that the “Walking with Dinosaurs” stage show debuted in Anchorage. The Daily News coined our exhibit Painting with Dinosaurs, which has become an annual event for me, featuring a new Alaskan dinosaur each year.

I create my mural in a public setting and invite the public to dabble some paint on the canvas so that we can inform them about the featured Alaskan dinosaur, the museum and scientist involved in its discovery, and the experience of participating in the creation of a large scale original piece of art that may one day end up in a museum collection. The participants are also invited to sign the back of the canvas upon completion. My goal is to represent Alaskan dinosaurs, Alaskan scientists, research facilities, and local museums. 

2) What kind of reaction do you get from the kids who watch you work? What does it mean to you to include them in the painting process? I love working with the kids, they know so much about the dinosaurs I paint. Usually, I can hear them coming across the atrium. “OHHHH! Coool dinosaurs! That’s a such and such, and they did this and that.” Then they describe how they like to paint and I invite them over the security tape to come paint. Most just jump right in wide eyed and ready to go. Interestingly, most adults need some coaxing as they are scared to mess anything up. It really is fun and who knows, maybe I can inspire a future Rembrandt to have the courage to lift that first brush and create a masterpiece when they grow up.  

3) The UA Museum of the North is planning a dinosaur exhibit to open next summer. What do you want to know about Alaska’s dinosaurs? I try to follow pretty closely what is happening in Alaska concerning dinosaur discoveries. With each painting, I have new information to take in about them, such as their anatomy, environment, social behavior and details. With the hadrosaur piece, I’ve explored the texture of the pads of their feet.

I also begin a new project by creating a smaller scale model to use for lighting and placement. I learn about their anatomy as it is being constructed. I try to work as closely as possible with the scientists to make sure that everything is correct according the suggested information regarding the species and their environment. With each painting I learn more about dinosaurs. And then the scientists (Go get ‘em, Pat!) find something new and we are back to the first page.

4) Have you ever been to the UA Museum of the North? What do you think of our dinosaur fossil collection? I am a huge fan of the UA Museum of the North and have had the opportunity to visit the collection and see some of the incredible specimens being studied there. It is one of the greatest collection of arctic dinosaurs anywhere in the world. It is my belief that all Alaskan dinosaurs should stay here in Alaska. The Museum of the North, its research staff and scientists are leading the mission of keeping the outstanding collection of arctic dinosaurs safe for future generations of Alaskans to see. 

The UA Museum of the North is working on an exhibit about dinosaurs in Alaska. Stay tuned for more about our project.

Our curator of earth sciences!

Our curator of earth sciences!

Recent paleontological fieldwork in the high Arctic archipelago of Svalbard, Norway reveals the presence of a rich assemblage of marine reptiles - plesiosaurs and ichthyosaurs. To date, approximately 60 individual skeletal occurrences have been mapped, of which 15 have been fully excavated. Individual skeletons range from partially to fully articulated, while bone preservation is variable and often dependent on factors relating to current permafrost conditions.
An artist’s rendition of a plesiosaur, a common group of marine reptiles in the Western Interior Seaway of North America, a thousand mile sea which extended from the Arctic to the Gulf of Mexico 74 million years ago. Artist: Ken Olson

Recent paleontological fieldwork in the high Arctic archipelago of Svalbard, Norway reveals the presence of a rich assemblage of marine reptiles - plesiosaurs and ichthyosaurs. To date, approximately 60 individual skeletal occurrences have been mapped, of which 15 have been fully excavated. Individual skeletons range from partially to fully articulated, while bone preservation is variable and often dependent on factors relating to current permafrost conditions.

An artist’s rendition of a plesiosaur, a common group of marine reptiles in the Western Interior Seaway of North America, a thousand mile sea which extended from the Arctic to the Gulf of Mexico 74 million years ago. Artist: Ken Olson

Blue Babe is a popular exhibit at the museum.
earthlydelightz:

Mummified Ice Age bison at the University of Alaska Museum

Blue Babe is a popular exhibit at the museum.

earthlydelightz:

Mummified Ice Age bison at the University of Alaska Museum

(via whitedogblog)