Temporal range: Late Triassic, Norian
Gunakadeit fossil.jpg.png
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Subclass: Diapsida
Order: Thalattosauria
Family: Thalattosauridae
Genus: Gunakadeit
Druckenmiller et al., 2020
Binomial name
Gunakadeit joseeae
Druckenmiller et al., 2020

Gunakadeit is an extinct genus of thalattosaur discovered in southeastern Alaska. The type, and only species, Gunakadeit joseeae, was named and described in 2020.[1] Prior to the discovery of Gunakadeit, it had been two decades since the interrelationships of the thalattosaurs was thoroughly updated. It was the most complete and well preserved thalattosaur discovered in North America to date.


The holotype was discovered by very rare chance. It was discovered within the intertidal zone off the coast of the Keku Islands, which is only exposed for a few days a year. On May 18, 2011, Jim Baichtal discovered a fossil poking out of the rock and he sent a picture to professional paleontologist Patrick Druckenmiller. During June 2011, when low tides of under four feet were predicted again, the fossil was excavated.[2]

When the fossil was fully excavated, Druckenmiller noticed that it was a new genus from the extremely pointed snout, which was likely an adaptation for the shallow marine environment where it lived.[2]


IMG 3982-scaled

Holotype upon discovery in 2011

Gunakadeit was a small thalattosaur, reaching up to 90 cm (3 ft) in length, smaller than most thalattosaurs. It had an extremely pointed snout, which was an adaptation for the marine enviroment that it existed in. It probably used its pointed snout to poke into crevices in coral reefs and feeding on soft bodied marine animals. It is thought that this specialization is what ultimately led to its extinction.[1][2]

Extinction theory

Gunakadeit was highly specialized to feed in the shallow water environments, but when the sea levels dropped and food sources changed, they had nowhere to go and as a result, the genus became extinct.[1][2]


The descriptors chose to honour the Native American Tlingit culture. The genus name Gunakadeit is a Tlingit word. A Gunakadeit is a sea monster in Tlingit mythology who brings good luck and fortune. The epithet, joseeae, honours Gene Primaky's mother, Joseé Michelle DeWaelheyns. Primaky helped to excavate the holotype.



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 (2020) "An articulated Late Triassic (Norian) thalattosauroid from Alaska and ecomorphology and extinction of Thalattosauria". Scientific Reports 10: Article number 1746. DOI:10.1038/s41598-020-57939-2. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 University of Alaska Fairbanks. (2020, February 4). New thalattosaur species discovered in Southeast Alaska: Gunakadeit joseeae is the most complete thalattosaur ever found in North America. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 7, 2020 from
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