New Dinosaur Named for Yeti of Mongolian Mythology

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Almas ukhaa fossils embedded in stone.
Type specimen of Almas ukhaa.
© AMNH/M. Ellison

Museum paleontologists have named a new bird-like dinosaur from the Gobi Desert after the “wild man” or “snowman” of Mongolian mythology. The name of the 75-80-million-year-old troodontid dinosaur, Almas ukhaa, refers to Almas, a local Yeti- or Bigfoot-like figure, and Ukhaa Tolgod, the fossil site where the specimen was collected in 1993. That was the same year when Ukhaa Tolgod, one of the world’s richest locations for dinosaur, lizard, and mammal fossils, was discovered by a group of researchers that included Macaulay Curator of Paleontology Mark Norell and Provost of Science Mike Novacek.  

“Although this specimen was excavated many years ago and has been included in previous studies, it was never officially described in detail,” said Pei Rui, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Hong Kong who led the study as part of his dissertation at Columbia University and the Museum. “We have determined it to be a new species based on several anatomical differences from other troodontids, a group of dinosaurs that are close to the ancestry of birds.”

The skull of Almas ukhaa seen from the right side.
The skull of Almas ukhaa from the right side.
© AMNH/M. Ellison

In life, Almas ukhaa would have had large eyes, a large brain, relatively long legs, and numerous small teeth. The researchers say it was likely carnivorous. 

The discovery of Almas ukhaa gives scientists further knowledge about the high diversity of these dinosaurs during the Cretaceous in what is today the Gobi Desert. At least five groups of troodontids have been discovered in the region. The fossil also preserves eggshell fragments, making it a very rare and special specimen.

The skull of Almas ukhaa as seen from the left side.
The skull of Almas ukhaa from the left side.
© AMNH/M. Ellison

“We can’t be sure how the eggshell came to be preserved with the skeleton: was it laying or caring for eggs, or eating them? But through microscopic study, we determined that the eggshell is very similar to the eggshell of other troodontid dinosaurs,” said Daniel Barta, a student in the comparative biology graduate program at the Museum’s Richard Gilder Graduate School and an author on the paper. 

The study was published in American Museum Novitiates.