Japanese scientists have discovered a new species of dinosaur. Excavations in 72-million-year-old marine deposits in the Mukawa Town of northern Japan unearthed the largest dinosaur skeleton ever found in the country. The dinosaur was originally nicknamed Mukawaryu, after the site in which it was found. Scientists subsequently gave it the official classification Kamuysaurus japonicas, which translates into “Japanese dragon god.”
Japanese Dragon God
In 2013, researchers from Hobetsu Museum and Hokkaido University Museum found part of the dinosaur’s tail, and eventually uncovered a nearly complete skeleton, with hundreds of bones. The specimen is thought to belong to a duck-billed, herbivorous species and, according to the study published in the journal Scientific Reports, the skeleton belonged to an adult nine years old or older. Analysis of the bones revealed that the creature measured eight meters (over 26 feet) in length and weighed either four or 5.3 tons when it was alive, depending on whether it was walking on two or four feet. It also had tilted spines along its back, a short jaw bone, and it may have had a thin, flat crest on its head.
Kamuysaurus is thought to be closely related to species found in Russia and China, and the location of the skeleton suggests it was a coastal-dwelling species. According to the university, Kamuysaurus japonicas “preferred to inhabit areas near the ocean, suggesting the coastline environment was an important factor in the diversification” of the dinosaurs in their early evolution.
“The fact a new dinosaur was discovered in Japan means there was once an independent world of dinosaurs in Japan or in East Asia, and an independent evolution process,” said team leader Yoshitsugu Kobayashi. “It is rare that a dinosaur (skeleton) in this state of preservation is discovered in East Asia. As Japan has lots of marine deposits, more dinosaurs are expected to be unearthed in the future.”
Analysis also revealed that the species belongs to the Edmontosaurini clade, which was spread throughout Asia and North America – the regions were connected at the time by present-day Alaska, allowing travel between the continents. Later on, Kamuysaurus japonicas must have been isolated to Asia, where it diverged from its ancestors.
While it may seem rare for new species of dinosaurs to be discovered, it actually occurs more often than you might think. In August, South African researchers determined that a skull held in a museum collection for three decades in fact belonged to an entirely new species. It is thought to have been an omnivorous and bipedal species that stood about ten feet tall with a long, slender neck. The species has since been named Ngwevu intloko, which means Grey Skull in the South African language of isiXhosa.