During Patrick Druckenmiller's not-so-restful sabbatical year, he is flying to museums around the world. In Alberta a few weeks ago and London now, the University of Alaska Museum's curator of earth science is looking at bones of dinosaurs similar to ones found in northern Alaska. The more he squints at them and chats with experts, the more he thinks far-north dinosaurs are like Alaskans compared to other Americans: kind of the same, but a little off.
"When we really reexamine the fauna, (northern Alaska) is a very weird place," Druckenmiller said.
The mini tyrannosaur, duck-billed swamp-stompers, armor-headed planteaters and other dinosaurs found in northern Alaska hint of a story that is theirs alone. That tale is separate from the one we learned as kids, told by fossils found in Montana, Alberta, Mongolia and other more-exposed and easier-to-get-to places.
Druckenmiller's examinations of the duckbilled dinosaurs found in Alberta led to the recent declaration of a new Alaska hadrosaur species due to slight but significant differences in body structure.
"They're close but they're different," Druckenmiller said. "It's true for fish, dinosaurs and mammals. There's no obvious gene flow between areas."