Among the tall conifer trees and flowering plants along the coast, a top predator looks for its dinner. The sun has started to set.
Nanuqsaurus is not that large, only 20-feet long and weighing 1,000 pounds, but it is still the top predator in the Arctic in the subcontinent Larimidia, where it lives, partly because of its powerful bite.
The days are getting shorter, which means winter is coming. And Nanuqsaurus knows it must find easy meals while it still can.
Life in the Arctic is difficult, though not because of the weather. Temperatures dip but never get so cold that Nanuqsaurus cannot walk around. The fuzz that covers Nanuqsaurus body also helps to keep it warm.
But in the winter season, the nights get longer and longer, sometimes lasting a full 24 hours. On top of it being hard to see, Nanuqsaurus knows that the prey it usually hunts will either migrate elsewhere for the winter or hide away and sleep for the next few months.
Nanuqsaurus sniffs around for signs of prey. It has a long nasal cavity and strong sense of small, which is especially useful in the dark. After a few moments, it gets a whiff of a herd of hadrosaurs not too far away.
It salivates at the thought. Nanuqsaurus quickly catches up to the herd. They are starting to head south, and in big groups they are dangerous, but alone they are weak and not that bright.
Nanuqsaurus knows it must separate one from the herd. One that is weak or small. It decides the best way to do this is to scare them, by making its presence known. The carnivore roars as loud as it can to attract attention. It works.
Scared and confused, the hadrosaurs start to run, but in different directions. Nanuqsaurus takes its time and watches, looking for its best opportunity. Then it spots a juvenile hadrosaur. The pretty brays, unhappy and afraid. Nanuqsaurus springs into action.
It starts running for the herbivore, its jaws open and ready to bite, flashing its killer-whale like teeth.
The hardosaur sees the carnivore coming and kicks into high gear, running away. It runs towards where the majority of the herd is running, but it cannot catch up in time.
Nanuqsaurus pounces, and bites down hard into the hadrosaur. It whimpers, as Nanuqsaurus teeth tear into its flesh. Eventually the hadrosaur bleeds out and stops making sounds.
In a few short weeks it will not be this easy to find food, so Nanuqsaurus knows it must enjoy it while it lasts. Life in the North is not easy, and though Nanuqsaurus is fairly small—especially compared to its cousins T-rex and Tarbosaurus—and has adapted, the long months before summer are difficult to survive.
It will take a lot of skill to sniff out food sources and successfully hunt them.
For now, Nanuqsaurus enjoys the warmth of the blood, and relishes every morsel. It uses its twiggy arms to help it balance as it digs in.
Facts about Nanuqsaurus:
- Nanuqsaurus’ name means “polar bear lizard”
- The carnivore lived in the Arctic, 70 million years ago
- Nanuqsaurus was the top predator in its habitat
- The Arctic in Nanuqsaurus lifetime was warm with lots of tall trees and flowering plants
- Nanuqsaurus is related to T-rex and Tarbosaurus, but it is 1-2 million years older
- Nanuqsaurus looked like T-rex, but only weighed 1,000 pounds and was 20 feet long
- It had a great sense of smell, which would have been useful in winter during the 24-hour periods of darkness
Find out more in the I Know Dino podcast, episode 11, “Nanuqsaurus.”
- “New dinosaur, cousin of T. Rex, discovered in Arctic” on CBC News
- “How scientists discovered the newest north slope dinosaur” on Alaska Dispatch News
- “New Pygmy Tyrannosaur Found, Roamed the Arctic” on National Geographic
- “Nanuqsaurus hoglundi: New Tyrannosaur Discovered in Alaska” on Sci-News
- “A Diminutive New Tyrannosaur from the Top of the World” on Perot Museum of Nature and Science
- “A Diminutive New Tyrannosaur from the Top of the World” on PLOS
- “Meet T. Rex’s New Pygmy Cousin: ‘Nanuqsaurus Hoglundi,’ Who Roamed The Arctic” on International Science Times
- “Nanuqsaurus” on Wikipedia
- “Nanuqsaurus” on BBC Earth
- “Nanuqsaurus” on Prehistoric Wildlife