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Alberta dinosaur bones more evidence of North America-Asia land bridge

Dino bones unearthed in southern Alberta are more evidence there was a land bridge between North America and Asia millions of years ago, say U of A researchers.

Alberta dinosaur bones more evidence of North America-Asia land bridge
Elmisaurine dinosaur Leptorhynchos elegans from the Upper Campanian Dinosaur 
Park Formation, Dinosaur Provincial Park, Alberta, Canada. Tarsometatarsi in 
proximal (A1–D1), anterior (A2–D2), and posterior (A3–D3) views 
[Credit: Funston et al.(2016)]
Elmisaur bones found in Alberta’s Dinosaur Provincial Park — elmisaurs were toothless beasts with fused ankle bones — bolster the idea there was a land bridge between the continents 70 million years ago, according to two research papers co-authored by Greg Funston, a University of Alberta PhD student, and paleontologist Philip Currie.

“Elmisaurs were one of the first dinosaurs found both here in North America as well as Mongolia,” said Funston. “There are very close relationships between the dinosaurs, indicating some sort of exchange between them. Our findings draw a strong link between the two places.”

While researchers know that many dinosaurs were found in both North America and Mongolia, Funston said what isn’t clear is how related they are.

“We also have to look at their connections. Despite the wildly different climates and parts of the world, there was a lot of communication between North America and Mongolia during the Cretaceous (70 million years ago).”

One highlight of the recent dino bone finds is a slot on the forehead of an elmisaur unearthed from Mongolia, illustrating the presence of a tall crest on the top of the dinosaur’s head.

Further, researchers speculate the fusing of ankle bones is an adaptation allowing agile zig-zagging. “Think about a dinosaur running at high speed,” says Funston. “When it turns, the ankle can take more stress and turn.”

The separate papers, both published in the journal Acta Palaeontologica Polonica, are, according to Funston, “part of a series of new papers over the past five years that have completely revolutionized our understanding of these animals.”

Funston notes Alberta was one of the most diverse parts of the planet in the Cretaceous period. “Alberta was really was a cradle of life .... We have an exceptionally rich heritage and history of life.”

Funston also said it’s important to understand the ancient connections the province has to other parts of the world.

“You don’t think of us being similar to other parts of the world like Mongolia, China, or Russia. It can help us understand where we fit in the global picture.”

Source: Edmonton Sun [February 25, 2016]

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