This has been the year of the troodontid - the feathery almost-but-not-quite-a-bird dinosaurs that scampered around the Jurassic and Cretaceous world. Over the past twelve months alone we've been introduced to ZhongjianosaurusJianianhualongLiaoningvenator, Albertavenator, and Latenivenatrix from the ancient strata of China and Canada, not to mention that Stenonychosaurus - a genus once discarded - is now back on the rollcall of valid dinosaurs. Given this embarrassment of fuzzy, sickle-clawed dinosaurs, it's only fitting that I end this year of Paleo Profiles by introducing you to one more. 

Almas ukhaa, named by paleontologist Rui Pei and colleagues, comes from the 75-71 million year old treasure trove of Ukhaa Tolgod, Mongolia. This is the area that's yielded dozens of dinosaur eggs, Protoceratops, Velociraptor, nesting oviraptorosaurs, and other spectacular finds all wrapped up in rust-red stone. Almas is the latest to join the esteemed list, a troodontid dinosaur immediately recognizable from its slender jaws packed with tiny, sharp teeth. Characteristics of its skull, hip, and vertebrae, the researchers report, distinguish this dinosaur as something new.

Not that Almas was the only troodontid around. At least five different troodontids have been named from the same formation or its nearby equivalents, Pei and coauthors write. Why so many? Well, that's the question. 

Perhaps Almas and the other troodontids lived at different slices of time within the four-million-year span of the Djadokhta Formation. Maybe they occupied different niches. Or they could have been geographic neighbors that didn't overlap in space despite living at the same time. Then again, if we only knew modern day rodents or birds from rare, scattered bones we might think of them as too similar to coexist on the same landscape even if they actually did. (The same questions surround troodontids found in the Early Cretaceous rocks of China, as well.) Troodontid diversity and success - at least until that extinction-causing asteroid struck - is still mysterious. But this is what keeps paleontology going. Find one dinosaur and you unearth a dozen questions to go with it.

The skull and skeleton of Almas. Credit: Pei et al 2017

Name: Almas ukhaa

Meaning: Almas is a nod to a "wild man" in Mongolia myth, while ukhaa is after Ukhaa Tolgod where the fossil was found.

Age: Cretaceous, 75-71 million years ago.

Where in the world?: Ukhaa Tolgod, Mongolia. 

What sort of organism?: A troodontid dinosaur.

How much of the organism’s is known?: A nearly-complete skull and part of the postcranial skeleton.


Pei, R., Norell, M., Barta, D., Bever, G., Pittman, M., Xu, X. 2017. Osteology of a new Late Cretaceous troodontid specimen from Ukhaa Tolgod, Ömnögovi Aimag, Mongolia. American Museum Novitates. 3889.

Previous Paleo Profiles:

The Light-Footed Lizard
The Maoming Cat
Knight’s Egyptian Bat
The La Luna Snake
The Rio do Rasto Tooth
Bob Weir's Otter
Egypt's Canine Beast
The Vastan Mine Tapir
Pangu's Wing
The Dawn Megamouth
The Genga Lizard
The Micro Lion
The Mystery Titanosaur
The Echo Hunter
The Lo Hueco Titan
The Three-Branched Cicada
The Monster of Minden
The Pig-Footed Bandicoot
Hayden's Rattlesnake Demon
The Evasive Ostrich Seer
The Paradoxical Mega Shark
The Tiny Beardogs
The Armored Fish King
North America's Pangolin
The Invisible-Tusked Elephant
The Mud Dragon
The Spike-Toothed Salmon
The Dream Coast Crocodile
Buriol's Robber
Ozimek's Flyer
The Northern Naustoceratopsian
The High Arctic Flyer
The Tomatillo From the End of the World
The Short-Faced Hyena
The Mighty Traveler from Egg Mountain
Keilhau's Ichthyosaur
Mexico's Ancient Horned Face
Mauricio Fernández's Plesiosaur
New Zealand's Giant Dawn Penguin
The Orange Sea Lion
Mongolia's Ginkgo Cousin
The Geni River Frog
Isabel Berry's Dinosaur
The Whale Caiman
The Moab Lizard
Yang Zhongjian's Lizard
The Little Anubis
The Shuangbai Lizard
The Wyvern Dinosaur
The "Need Helmet" Dinosaur
The Jianianhua Dragon
The Liaoning Hunter
The Dalian Lizard
Crompton's Aleodon
Jenkins' Amphibian Serpent From the Chinle
The Large Ancestor Lizard
The Crown Tooth
Currie's Alberta Hunter
The Elephant Bird Mimic
The Crested Thief
The Hiding Hunter
The Horned Lizard
The Silk Bird
The Sieve-Toothed Plesiosaur
The Defenseless Snout
Burian's Lizard
The Small Whaitsiid
The Beautiful Bird
The Fierce Cat
The Older One From Melksham
The King of the Miocene Iberian Giraffes
Miera's Lizard
The Traveling Sloth
The Sand Whale
Shouten's Marsupial Lion
The Rhaetian Lizard