North Slope-Dinosaurs

Posted: Monday, November 20, 2000

BARROW (AP) -- Scientists from the University of Alaska visited here recently to discuss a dominant species on the North Slope. But they weren't talking about the polar bears or bowhead whales of the present. Rather, the focus was about dinosaurs from the distant past.

Roland Gangloff and some associates have been digging up dinosaur bones from along the banks of the Colville River, about 20 miles from the village of Nuiqsut, since 1987.

The goal is to find the earliest evidence of dinosaurs, and the summer digs are paying off, he said.

''We have now pushed the record back about 30 million years beyond what we knew just three years ago,'' Gangloff said. ''That takes us back to what we call the end of the early Cretaceous Period (about 110 million years ago). And at that particular part of the history we have only tracks, but we have tracks of at least three major kinds of dinosaurs and a lot of bird tracks now.''

Despite continuing publication and publicity about the North Slope dinosaur bone discoveries, there still is some disbelief and amazement about dinosaurs so far north, he said.

''Even some of my colleagues in the business of dinosaur hunting still haven't grasped how extensive a record we have and how long a record we have of dinosaurs at such a high latitude.''

Gangloff said he was working with some Australian scientists who are filling in the record in the southern polar regions.

''It reinforces what we are finding here -- that dinosaurs were well-adapted to living very close to the polar regions. Whether they lived here the whole year or not is still being debated, but we are finding more and more evidence that at some times they probably lived up here and overwintered.''

The North Slope climate was considerably milder back then, he said.

''Much milder, much more like what you would find along the northern coast of California to the southern coast of British Columbia.''

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