Meet 'Cold Bone': The First Distinct Dinosaur Species Ever Found in Greenland

Researchers believe that a pair of skulls dating back to 214 million years old belong to the first known dinosaur species in Greenland.
The dino's name, Issi saaneq ("cold bone") in Greenlandic Inuit is a reference to a long-necked, plant eating sauropodomorph. It was reconstructed using two skulls that were found back in 1994. They were originally believed to be Plateosaurus.

Researchers have concluded that this species is an independent species, an additional branch in the Late Triassic dinosaur family tree, after closer examination of the skulls.

Living reconstruction of Issi Saaneq. (Victor Beccari)

Victor Beccari from NOVA University Lisbon, Portugal, says that the anatomy of these skulls is unusual in many ways. He also mentions the unique shape and proportions for the bones. These specimens are definitely from a new species.

Researchers were able to create 3D models of skulls using a micro-computed Tomography (micro-CT scan) technique. This allowed them to identify key differences in the Plateosaurus, including variations in the position and shape of the jaws.

We don't know how big Issi saaneq was, but it is possible that it could have reached lengths of 3-10m (up to almost 33ft) if it was similar to other plateosaurids. This would be comparable to Plateosaurus as well as the Macrocollum or the Unaysaurus, two closely related species found in modern Brazil. They are nearly 15 million years old.

The supercontinent Pangaea was breaking apart when Issi Saaneq lived. This would have formed the Atlantic Ocean. This shifting geography is what makes it possible to find dinosaur fossils all over the globe.

Lars Clemmensen, a sedimentologist from the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, says that "at the time the Earth was experiencing climate change that enabled the first plant eating dinosaurs to reach Europe"

Issi saaneq skulls. (Victor Beccari)

Another interesting aspect of this discovery is the fact that the sauropodomorphs are the precursors to the sauropods. They were the largest animal to walk on the surface of the Earth. This is a significant piece in the evolutionary puzzle.

There is plenty of evidence that the Plateosaurus lived in France, Germany, and Switzerland. However, there are only a few examples of this dinosaur species that have been found in Greenland today.

There is now evidence for a unique Greenlandic dinosaur species. It can be added to the growing number of dinosaur species being discovered and documented every year.

"It's exciting to find a close relative of renowned Plateosaurus," said Oliver Wings, a paleontologist at the Martin Luther University of Halle Wittenberg (MLU).

Diversity published the research.