An international team of scientists says Alaska could have been a thoroughfare for dinosaurs between Asia and North America. The tracks of a hadrosaur were found with those of a therizinosaur.

Hadrosaurs, also known as duck-bill dinosaurs, have been found in Denali before, but therizinosaurs are best known in Asia. In 2012, Dr. Anthony Fiorillo, chief curator and vice president of research and collections at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas, Texas, published with a colleague about finding a single therizinosaur print in Denali. In the following years, the two found several more prints. What was surprising was they were discovered alongside dozens of hadrosaurs.

"Hadrosaurs are very common and found all over Denali National Park. Previously, they had not been found alongside therizinosaurs in Denali. In Mongolia, where therizinosaurs are best known – though no footprints have been found in association – skeletons of hadrosaurs and therizinosaurs have been found to co-occur from a single rock unit, so this was a highly unusual find in Alaska, and it prompted my interest," said Fiorillo. "From our research, we've determined that this track association of therizinosaurs and hadrosaurs is currently the only one of its kind in North America."

To support his theory that Alaska was a gateway for therizinosaurs and hadrosaurs migrating from Asia to North America, Fiorillo’s team embarked on a mission to study any unique aspects of the ecosystem where the tracks were found in Denali. The team included a sedimentologist, geologist, paleobotanist, paleoecologist and an expert on therizinosaurs. They determined the area was wet and marsh-like, finding a fossil that looked like a water lily. An Asian report also suggested the two dinosaurs lived in unusually wet conditions, further bolstering Fiorillo’s theory.

"This discovery provides more evidence that Alaska was possibly the superhighway for dinosaurs between Asia and western North America 65 to 70 million years ago," added Fiorillo.

Jennifer Summers contributed information to this story.

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