Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Overwintering Polar Dinos

Polar dinosaurs on parade: a review of dinosaur migration. 2008. P. Bell and E. Snively. Alcheringa 32: 271-284.

Contrary to popular belief, polar dinosaurs may not have traveled nearly as far as originally thought when making their bi-annual migration.
Abstract: Cretaceous polar dinosaur faunas were taxonomically diverse, which suggests varied strategies for coping with the climatic stress of high latitudes. Some polar dinosaurs, particularly larger taxa such as the duckbill Edmontosaurus Lambe, 1917, were biomechanically and energetically capable of migrating over long distances, up to 2600 km. However, current evidence strongly suggests many polar dinosaurs (including sauropods, large and small theropods, and ankylosaurs of New Zealand) overwintered in preference to migration.

Certain groups also appear more predisposed to overwintering based on their physical inability (related to biomechanics, natural history, or absolute size) to migrate, such as ankylosaurs and many small taxa, including hypsilophodontids and troodontids. Low-nutrient subsistence is found to be the best overwintering method overall, although the likelihood that other taxa employed alternative means remains plausible. Despite wide distribution of some genera, species-level identification is required to assess the applicability of such distributions to migration distances. Presently, such resolution is not available or contradicts the migration hypothesis.

From the press release:

Bell does not dispute the evidence of migration and points to discoveries of large bone beds as evidence that many dinosaurs also traveled. In order to sustain the herd, "it seemed to make sense that they would be moving to and from the poles," he said.

While this view of migration is feasible for some species of polar dinosaurs, it does not hold for all, Bell noted. "Many types of dinosaurs were surviving in polar latitudes at the time, and getting along quite fine," said Bell. "They were not physically able to remove themselves from the environment for a variety of reasons and had to adapt to the cold, dark winters just as the rest of us mammals do today."