Northern lights dinosaur was a savage predator

BY JOHN PICKRELL March 18, 2016

An Australian palaeontologist has led the discovery of a new Velociraptor relative that lived within the Arctic Circle.
John Pickrell is the editor of Australian Geographic. He is a science writer, author, nature lover and self-confessed geek. Blog posts range over Southern Hemisphere palaeontology, dinosaurs, megafauna, archaeology, palaeoanthropology and a smattering of other topics.

DR PHIL BELL, who works with Australian Geographic on our annual Lightning Ridge fossil dig, has discovered a new species of predatory dinosaur related to Velociraptor.
Despite being no bigger than a large dog, the newly discovered animal would have been a swift runner and a nasty piece of work, says Bell. “It had rows of small, serrated teeth, like mini steak knives; three large talons on each hand; and a foot equipped with a trademark sickle-like claw, that it could use like a grappling hook to latch onto prey.”
Bell – who is based at the University of New England in Armidale, NSW – spends part of each year working on fossil digs overseas in places such as Mongolia and Canada, and this latest discovery was made in Alberta in 2012. The find is detailed in a Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology paper he co-authored with seasoned Canadian dinosaur hunter Phil Currie.
Dinosaurs under the northern lights
Boreonykus certekorum, as they have called it, lived in the Grande Prairie region of Alberta 73 million years ago, during the Late Cretaceous. The name Boreonykus comes from the Greek ‘borealis’, meaning northern, and ‘nykos’, meaning claw.
The fossils were found in the boreal forests that encircle the world at high-northern latitudes from Canada to Europe and Siberia. “You can also see the spectacular aurora borealis northern lights at those latitudes,” Bell says. “The sickle claw from the foot was also one of the first bones found, so all those elements came together to lend the species its name.”
The initial discovery of fossil bones was made in 1986, but experts assumed they belonged to an animal already known, and so they lay unstudied in the collection of the Royal Tyrrell Museum for a quarter of a century before he found them in 2010. Bell was then part of the expedition that discovered more Boreonykus bones in 2012.

The enigma of Boreonykus
“I became fascinated with this animal, as small carnivorous dinosaurs from these latitudes are extremely rare,” he says. “After a bit of poking around, we realised that these were not the bones of Saurornitholestes, Dromaeosaurus or some other known species, but something new and unique to this region.”
Seventy-three million years ago this part of northern Canada was even further north than today. Though global temperatures were then high, there would have been long periods of complete winter darkness, when plants wouldn’t have been able to get energy from the Sun and ecosystems virtually shut down.
“Herbivorous dinosaurs would have migrated or hibernated, leaving hungry carnivorous theropods in their wake,” Bell says. Experts have long wondered what carnivores at high latitudes ate in winter, especially as fossil finds in recent decades have shown a wide diversity of predatory species.
“Boreonykus is one more enigma. We don’t really know what they did during the winter months. Small land animals such as this don’t migrate well. It’s too exhausting. Similarly, modern carnivores tend to stay in their home areas over winter even when the bigger, herbivorous game leaves.”
(Courtesy of Australian Geographic)

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Support for parents

Gone Way Too Soon…Coping With a Child’s Death


“Parents are not supposed to bury their children,” David cried out. “This is not how it’s supposed to be.” You likely identify with this dad, expressing the shock, disbelief and grief of a child’s death. Whether in an unexpected car crash, through suicide or after a lengthy illness, the death of a child turns the world upside down. Regardless of whether the “child” is a toddler, a teenager or a middle-aged parent herself, a child’s death upsets the “natural order” of life.

A big part of the grief process for parents is described as a “search for meaning.” In early grief, finding meaning in a child’s death is an impossible task, and for some, no sense is ever made of the death. Eventually, though, most bereaved parents, family members and friends do find meaning in the loss-or at least in spite of it. You might embrace a cause to prevent other families from experiencing the same tragedy or fondly recall the rich living crammed into a few short years by a young person gone too soon. You may eventually find a depth to your own strength or vitality in your faith you never knew existed.

The Child’s Siblings and Friends

Siblings and friends of the child who has died need an extra measure of patience and support and there are many practical ways friends and family members can provide help. Though parents desire to shield surviving children from the pain, and even if the other children have not been told what happened, siblings sense the tension in the family, realizing intuitively, “something is wrong.” When they do not get honest information about their brother or sister, they sometimes erroneously conclude that parents are upset because of their actions.

The Child’s Grandparents

Grandparents also experience the loss deeply. In the words of author and bereaved grandparent, Mary Lou Reed, “Grandparents cry twice.” Not only must grandparents bear the grief after their grandchild’s death, but they also must helplessly witness the intractable pain their own child experiences as the grandchild’s now-bereaved parent. If you know a bereaved grandparent, inquire not only about the well-being of the bereaved parents, but also ask how he or she is doing, too.

Your Marriage, Family and Coping

Do not believe common cultural “myths” about parental bereavement. Your marriage is not “doomed,” though a child’s death does put an unprecedented strain on even the best marriages. And ignore the well-meaning suggestion of friends or family members who suggest something like, “Since you’re young, you can have another child.” Children can never be replaced, regardless of their age at death.

A child’s death is a life-altering event, but for parents and other family members, it does not have to be a life-ending event. Grief shakes us from “top to bottom,” leaving no part of life untouched.

Finding Support

Some bereaved parents want to talk about their loss with a counselling professional, and you can find one at the Association for Death Education and Counselling. In addition, mutual help groups like Compassionate Friends, Bereaved Parents of the USA, Bereaved Parents of Canada and Care for the Family provide excellent online resources and links to community-based chapters.

Surviving children may also benefit from a bereavement support program. The National Alliance for Grieving Children provides excellent resources and a searchable database of bereavement programs for children and teens. Learn from others who have walked through parental bereavement. Biographies often include anecdotes about how people have faced the deaths of children. Reading the stories of bereaved parents like John Walsh (America’s Most Wanted), Candy Lightner(Mothers Against Drunk Driving), and Marc Klaas (Klaas Kid’s Foundation) may encourage you in your own journey.

Written Resources

Though you may be unable to concentrate on long books, you may find these helpful:

  • How to Survive the Loss of a Child by Catherine Sanders
  • The Grieving Garden: Living with the Death of a Child by Suzanne Redfern and Susan K. Gilbert
  • Life after the Death of My Son: What I’m Learning by Dennis Apple
  • Giving Sorrow Words by Candy Lightner and Nancy Hathaway
  • A Grief Unveiled: One Father’s Journey Through the Loss of a Child by Gregory Floyd
  • When the Bough Breaks: Forever after the Death of a Son or Daughter by Judith Bernstein

Additional Resources

Contact Us, your local Selected Independent Funeral Home.