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This life-size model of Trierarchuncus prairiensis was sculpted by Boban Filipovic and is on display at Badlands Dinosaur Museum, Dickinson, ND.

This life-size model of Trierarchuncus prairiensis was sculpted by Boban Filipovic and is on display at Badlands Dinosaur Museum, Dickinson, ND.


New species of alvarezsaurid 'hook-handed' dinosaur found in the Hell Creek formation of Montana


Summary Points

This life-size model of Trierarchuncus prairiensis was sculpted by Boban Filipovic and is on display at Badlands Dinosaur Museum, Dickinson, ND. More images of the model can be seen on Boban Filipovic's Facebook Page Album.


What is an Alvarezsaurid dinosaur?
Alvarezsaurid dinosaurs were small theropods (around 6 feet in length) that had a tiny but strong hand with one large functional thumb claw. Alverzaurids had long legs and a long snout with tiny teeth. It's thought these animals were suited for eating colonial insects, like termites. Like an anteater, it could claw it was into a termite mound and insert its long snout.

The new species: trierarchuncus prairiensis translates into 'Captain Hook of the Prairie' because of its large thumb claw.

The fossils were discovered in the American Prairie Reserve in eastern Montana from the Hell Creek Formation (Late Cretaceous).

This new material consists of 3 thumb claws from different aged individuals that represent a growth series from juvenile to adult.

The growth series show the dinosaur changed as it aged. The claw became more robust and developed a rough surface texture.



New 'Captain Hook' dinosaur found in the Hell Creek formation of Montana

This article is based on a Press Release from the Dickinson Museum Center - July 10, 2020


The three claws described in the study form an ontogenetic series showing changes in shape and texture as the animal grew in size.

The three claws described in the study form an ontogenetic series showing changes in shape and texture as the animal grew in size.


A research team led by Dr. Denver Fowler of the Badlands Dinosaur Museum described a rare Alvarezsaurid dinosaur. This odd group of small theropod dinosaurs is characterized by short arms with a very large thumb claw, long legs, a long snout, and primitive feathers. They were thought be insectivores, filling the niche of todays anteaters. Like an anteater, these fluffy dinosaurs could claw into termite mounds with their large hook and insert their long snout for feeding.

Alvarezsaurid dinosaurs are better known from Asia and South America, as their remains are extremely rare in North America, with just a few fragments from Alberta and Montana. Because of their rarity, alvarezsaurids are typically overlooked. "...it probably comes as a surprise to some people to learn that these strange-looking fluffy insectivores would have been scurrying around the feet of Tyrannosaurus and Triceratops!"

Three hand claws of these dinosaurs were discovered during recent field work by the Badlands Dinosaur Museum and the Museum of the Rockies from the American Prairie Reserve in eastern Montana. The fossils are from the Hell Creek Formation which is Late Cretaceous in age (66 million years old), and contain some of the last dinosaurs to ever live before their extinction.


The three claws with a hand for scale.

The three claws with a hand for scale.


Dr. Denver Fowler's research team named the remains a new species: Trierarchuncus prairiensis. The genus name trierarch and uncus combines to form 'Captain Hook', in reference to the hook-handed pirate of Peter Pan. The species prairiensis means "of the prairie" referring to the location the fossils were found. Together the name is quite fitting: 'Captain Hook of the Prairie'

The hand claws are all different sizes and most likely represents a growth series from juvenile to adult. This shows as the dinosaur grew, it changed. The claw became more robust, the blood vessel grooves became more deeply embedded in the bone, and the claw developed a rough surface texture. The team also found the claws are more hooked than previously thought on alvarezsaurid dinosaurs.

A beautiful model of this dinosaur is on display at the Badlands Dinosaur Museum, Dickinson Museum Center, North Dakota. It was created by Boban Filipovic, a paleontologist and artist from Serbia.

One of the new claws is almost complete, and shows that alvarezsaurid thumb claws were more curved than previously assumed.

One of the new claws is almost complete, and shows that alvarezsaurid thumb claws were more curved than previously assumed.



All of the specimens were collected from the prairie badlands of eastern Montana, USA.

All of the specimens were collected from the prairie badlands of eastern Montana, USA.




This news article and images are based on a Press Release from the Dickinson Museum Center.

The Full Journal Article is Available Here:

Denver W. Fowler, John P. Wilson, Elizabeth A. Freedman Fowler, Christopher R. Noto, Daniel Anduza, & John R.Horner (2020) Trierarchuncus prairiensis gen. et sp. nov., the last alvarezsaurid: Hell Creek Formation (uppermost Maastrichtian), Montana. Cretaceous Research, Available online 10th June 2020 DOI: 104560.




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