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15 Interesting Albertonykus Facts

by Sankalan Baidya
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albertonykus facts

Movies like Jurassic Park made us believe that dinosaurs are almost always scary and massive. But the truth is far from what has been shown in the epic dramatization of those movie plots. For instance, can you ever think that there once used to be a terrifying dinosaur that used to terrorize termites? Can you ever guess that that dinosaur which terrorized the termites was as big as a chicken? Yes! There used to be one such dinosaur. Its name is Albertonykus. So, let us learn some Albertonykus facts and find out more about this interesting dinosaur.

But before we start…

Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Clade Dinosauria
Order Saurischia
Suborder Theorpoda
Family Alvarezsauridae
Genus Albertonykus
Species A. borealis
Binomial Name Albertonykus borealis (borealis means NORTH)

Okay, now that we have the basic information in hand, let us take a look at the dinosaur at a glance:

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At a Glance

Name: Albertonykus.

Lived: 70 million years ago.

Historical Period: Upper Cretaceous (Maastrichtian-age).

Diet: Wood-nesting Termites (Insectivore).

Locomotion: Bipedal.

Size: 70 centimeters long to 1.1 meter long.

Weight: Some estimate the weight to be around 5 kilograms.

Interesting Fact: It is the earliest known and smallest North American alvarezsaurid dinosaur.

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Let’s start with the facts now…

Interesting Albertonykus Facts: 1-5

1. The Albertonykus is pronounced as “al-BERT-oh-NYE-cuss”. The name is actually Greek for Alberta Claws.

2. The part Albert of the name Albertonykus comes from Alberta, Canada from where the fossil remains were unearthed. The exact place from where the dinosaur’s fossils were unearthed is Dry Island Provincial Park where the Horseshoe Canyon Formation is located.

3. The bonebed from where the remains of Albertonykus has been dug up is known for the fossils of Albertosaurus sarcophagus – a gigantic dinosaur similar to the T. Rex.

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4. It is interesting to know that he bonebed from where the remains of Albertonykus has been quarried was first dug up in 1910 when 9 specimen of Albertosaurus were found. The digging was stopped just after 2 weeks. Later digging was resumed after several years and more than 20 Albertasaurus specimen were unearthed. In 2002 excavations were resumed Philip John Currie -led group of scientists. That’s when more than a dozen leg bones and arm bones were found that belonged to some unknown species.

5. Those remains of the unknown species were sent to Alberta’s Royal Tyrrell Museum. The remains were not studied until in 2005 came Nick Longrich from University of Calgary. He studied the remains and understood that they belong to an unknown species that was not studied earlier.

Interesting Albertonykus Facts: 6-10

6. In 2009, Longrich along with Currie published a paper giving the description of the type species and named it A. borealis. The paper was however made available online (preprint) in 2008 itself.

7. According to Longrich and Currie, the Albertonykus borealis was a small and feathered dinosaur with very close relationship with Alvarezsaurus found in South America.

8. The close relationship between the Alvarezsaurus and A. borealis led the two people to reach the conclusion that the Albertonykus was basically a breed of alvarezsaurs (small theropod dinosaurs).

9. As far as the physical structure of the Albertonykus is concerned, they had very small forelimbs which were specially designed for digging. They had large claws on their forelimbs. However, the forelimbs were too small for burrowing.

10. As far as their hind limbs were concerned – they were slender and long and their tails were long and rigid.

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Interesting Albertonykus Facts: 11-15

11. No skull bones have been found for the Albertonykus. However, the Mongolian relatives of Albertonykus gave the scientists a fair idea of how it could have looked like. To the best guess as of now is that the snout of Albertonykus was slender and long with many tiny teeth just like anteaters or armadillos.

12. The question is, ‘what did Albertonykus eat?’. Scientists think that it used to feed on termites. However, not just any termite. Those termites that nested in woods were the prey of this dinosaur.

13. The question is, ‘why not ants or termites known for building mounds?’ The answer to this question is very simple. There are two answers to this question. First, the Cretaceous ecosystem didn’t have ants as a major player.

14. Second, the termites known for building mounds didn’t even appear until the Eocene. So, what’s left is the wood-nesting termites.

15. Also, in order to validate the theory about the diet, the scientists studied some petrified wood they unearthed from the Horseshoe Canyon Formation. They found borings on those woods that resemble the borings made by termites that nest in woods. So, this pretty much supported the Albertonykus diet theory that scientists gave.

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4

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