Travel Tuesday: Dinosaur dig uncovers clues about warmer Alaska climate
A group of international researchers say they have uncovered possible evidence of a warmer climate in Alaska — dating back to when dinosaurs roamed the Earth.
Dr. Tony Fiorillo of the Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas, Texas, and his team are fresh back from a three-week, remote expedition to Aniakchak National Monument and Preserve. During that time, Fiorillo says the researchers discovered what appeared to be a crayfish burrow.
How do crayfish fit in with dinosaurs? We wondered that too.
"They lived with the dinosaurs," Fiorillo explained. "As you can imagine, in Anchorage, there aren't many crayfish near us. That's a paleoclimate indicator because it means it was warmer back then because the closest crayfish to us is probably southern Canada. So, to be up there at that time, the world must have been a little warmer."
According to an article on the University of Alaska's website, the dinosaur's presence in the state dates back 70 million years.
Fiorillo's work on this latest expedition was inspired by his trip to the Alaska Peninsula in 2010 — in which he found the first record of a dinosaur in an Alaska national park.
"It was time to go back to Aniakchak and see what we might have missed from those early expeditions, and it turned out we missed a lot," Fiorillo said.
In 2017, Fiorillo authored the book Alaskan Dinosaurs: An Ancient Arctic World.
The internationally-renowned dinosaur expert says understanding how dinosaurs lived in Alaska can offer a window into the early days of humans.
"Alaska was essentially a Bering Land Bridge equivalent even at the time of the dinosaurs," Fiorillo said. "So understanding what's happening in Alaska, we understand what happened on two continents, Asia and North America because they used the land bridge just like early humans and early people in the new world, and woolly mammoths."
In August, Fiorillo will head out on another expedition near Denali National Park. He says the trip is based on tips he's received from visitors in the region over the last two years.
"It's time to go look," Fiorillo said.
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