Monday, 12 November 2012

A-Z of Dinosaurs in Alberta: A is for Albertonykus

Today we are going to start a series called the A-Z of Dinosaurs in Alberta. This series will take 26 weeks, a week for each letter of the alphabet, and will take us all the way to April 2013 when we will open for the 2013 season. The idea for this series came from Brian Switek, a science writer that focuses on palaeontology. He is currently doing his own A-Z of dinosaurs on his Smithsonian blog 'Dinosaur Tracking', and he agreed to let us use his idea. 

Each week, we will introduce a new dinosaur from Alberta that starts with the letter of the alphabet in question. Now there are plenty of dinosaurs from Alberta, but there are a few letters with no dinosaurs found here. For these letters, I will discuss a different dinosaur from around the world. Now, let's get started with 'A'!

A is for Albertonykus

Albertonykus is a small theropod dinosaur found in southern Alberta. Named in 2009 by Nick Longrich (previously of the University of Calgary, now at the Yale Peabody Museum) and Philip Currie (University of Alberta), it's a relatively new dinosaur from Alberta. It's name means 'Alberta-claw', in reference to it's many claws. It is known from a variety of bones from at least two individuals including a a left ulna (lower arm bone), right tibia (lower leg bone), end of left tibia, and several hand and foot bones. Most of the bones are found in a single bone bed in Dry Island Buffalo Jump Provincial Park, which is known as the Albertosaurus bone bed, as the remains are dominated by Albertosaurus. So far, all Albertonykus remains have been found in Alberta.

Artists impression of Albertonykus borealis. Image from Wikimedia Commons user Karkemish
There is one species of Albertonykus known, Albertonykus borealis. It is a small theropod, an alvarezsaur, from the Late Cretaceous, living approximately 70 million years ago. Although it's remains are quite partial, it was likely about 1 m long, with quite small, reduced forelimbs, which is common among alvarezsaurs. Like other alvarezsaurs, it is thought that Albertonykus was an insectivore, feeding primarily on small insects like termites. It could have used it's forelimbs to claw at wood, getting at the termites within the trees. 



Other A-dinosaurs from Alberta

Albertosaurus, Anchiceratops, Ankylosaurus, Arrhinoceratops, and Atrociraptor


Longrich, N. R., and Currie, P. J. 2009. Albertonykus borealis, a new alvarezsaur (Dinosauria: Theropoda) from the Early Maastrichtian of Alberta, Canada: implications for the systematics and ecology of the Alvarezsauridae. Cretaceous Research 30: 239-252.


  1. Quite appreciative of your choice here. :D

  2. Glad you agreed with our choice! I am trying to pick some of the lesser-known Alberta dinosaurs for this feature, and Albertonykus seemed like a perfect choice!