Working on steep slopes in conditions that mimic wintertime in Dallas, a team from the Perot Museum of Nature and Science is spending the summer in Alaska s Denali National Park and Preserve gathering some dinosaur specimens frozen in time including a mold of some dino toes.
There s one toe, two toes, three toes, four toes, said Anthony Fiorillo, as he prepared to make a mold of the discovery. The curator of earth sciences at the Perot Museum set out to make new discoveries Sunday with his team.
They encountered cold temperatures, rain, and even some snowflakes.
They're accustomed to the conditions, though. This team has been traveling to this remote spot for several years now, each year picking up where they left off after being forced out by winter.
It s the kind of thing that makes you crazy, Fiorillo said. You leave one summer with big questions, and know you have way too many months to go before you can try to get back out to answer them.
Occasionally, those answers have pointed to entire new species of dinosaurs.
Fiorillo said the discoveries and where they are being made is changing what we thought we knew about the prehistoric giants.
These dinosaurs lived in the northern environment. By doing that, they are challenging everything we know about dinosaurs, Fiorillo said. The stereotype is that they lived in warm tropical swamps, yet here we are in the arctic and we are finding they were incredibly abundant, so we re challenging what we think we know about dinosaur physiology and biology, and we are also challenging what the ancient arctic looked like.
That s what keeps them coming back year after year, gathering as many new clues as possible as quickly as they can because it won t be too long before winter returns to Denali, harshly and hastily.
When it does, the Perot researchers will retreat to their much milder labs in Dallas where they will examine their finds and perhaps be able to more accurately re-write the story of the dinosaurs.