A new species of pygmy Tyrannosaurus Rex only half the size of its closest relative has been identified in northern Alaska, with Nanuqsaurus hoglundi ending up smaller and fluffier than its better-known cousins thanks to the harsh conditions. The dinky dino was likely the top Arctic predator in the late Cretaceous period, paleontologists Anthony R. Fiorillo and Ronald S. Tykoski concluded, measuring around 20 feet long and probably covered in dense fuzzy hair.
That fur would have helped keep the T-Rex warm in the difficult climate, with scientists suggesting that N. hoglundi may well have been a little bushier than other dinosaurs.
However, the marked prey cycle of the Arctic seasons would have prevented the dinosaur from growing too large. Supplies of food would likely be plentiful in the summer, but then dwindle significantly over the winter. N. hoglundi – labeled A in the diagram below – is markedly smaller than the other Tyrannosaurs, though still larger than other species.
Interestingly, the original fossil evidence of the dinosaur was first overlooked, with researchers assuming that the 2006 find was merely the remains of a younger example of a known species. However further investigation into a ridged section of the dinosaur’s head pointed to it having been adult when it died, not juvenile, since that formation would not be found on a younger example.
Although smaller than other Tyrannosaurus Rex species, the pygmy version would still be a fearsome predator. Evidence from the skull suggests it would have had large scent recepters, presumably to better track prey.
The discovery is being hailed as further evidence of just how adaptable the Tyrannosaurus was to different environments. However, the T-Rex’s reputation as the most fearsome of the dinosaurs was challenged last year, when researchers found evidence of a new species in Utah.