Story at a glance
- Paleontologists say the find is important as it provides new insight into hadrosaur migration, evolutionary changes and the prevalence of dinosaurs in Japan.
- “They most likely used the Bering Land Bridge to cross from Asia to present-day Alaska and then spread across North America as far east as Appalachia,” SMU researchers said in a news release.
- In 2019, researchers reported the largest dinosaur skeleton ever found in Japan on the island of Hokkaido, a duck-billed dinosaur named Kamuysaurus.
A new type of duck-billed dinosaur has been identified on one of Japan’s southern islands.
In 2004, an amatuer fossil hunter found the preserved lower jaw, teeth, neck vertebrae, shoulder bone and tail vertebra in an approximately 72-million-year-old layer of sediment on Japan’s Awaji island.
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The fossil was given to Japan’s Museum of Nature and Human Activities where it was stored before being studied by an international team of researchers from Southern Methodist University (SMU) and Japan.
In a study recently published in Scientific Reports, researchers now say the specimen is that of a new genus and species of hadrosaur, or duck-billed dinosaur, they’ve dubbed Yamatosaurus izanagii.
The plant-eating hadrosaurs roamed the Earth during the Late Cretaceous period more than 65 million years ago and are the most commonly discovered type of dinosaur. Fossils have been found in North America, Europe, Africa and Asia.
Researchers say the find is important as it provides new insight into hadrosaur migration, evolutionary changes and the prevalence of dinosaurs in Japan.
“They most likely used the Bering Land Bridge to cross from Asia to present-day Alaska and then spread across North America as far east as Appalachia,” SMU researchers said in a news release.
“When hadrosaurs roamed Japan, the island country was attached to the eastern coast of Asia. Tectonic activity separated the islands from the mainland about 15 million years ago, long after dinosaurs became extinct.”
Yamatosaurus also has a quite different set of teeth compared to known duck-billed dinosaur species, which had hundreds of closely spaced teeth. The species has just one functional tooth in several positions in its mouth with no branched ridges on chewing surfaces, suggesting the dinosaur evolved to eat different types of vegetation than other hadrosaurs.
The specimen also displays an evolutionary change in its shoulder and forelimbs that illustrate the creatures changed from walking upright to walking on all fours.
In 2019, researchers reported the largest dinosaur skeleton ever found in Japan on the island of Hokkaido, a duck-billed dinosaur named Kamuysaurus.
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