Japan’s Fukui museum at the forefront of dinosaur fossil excavation in Asia

Tech & Science  ON APR 16 2013 NO COMMENTS

The dinosaur exhibit at Fukui museum is a sight to behold, as many children and their parents can attest to you. With around 40 complete dinosaur skeletons displayed out in the open – not in glass cases – the museum has become an attraction for the Japanese population to learn about these prehistoric animals that roamed the Japanese islands. The fossils and skeletons are mainly from the museum’s own excavations in Katsuyama, Fukui Prefecture, even as the museum is currently branching out in Asia to help uncover fossils in other countries.

At present, the Fukui museum archaeological team is partnering in a dig spearheaded by Thailand’s Khorat Fossil Museum in Suranaree, about 260 km northeast of Bangkok. The project has been a treasure trove of fossils, with the team unearthing around 30,000 fossil pieces, and even discovering new species local to the area, over the past six years. “Like in Katsuyama, the same geological stratum from the early Cretaceous period exists beneath the site in Thailand,” said Yoichi Azuma, curator at the Fukui museum. “They also share in common the kinds of dinosaur fossils found.” And the fossils are at a depth that is relatively easy to get to, as the bedrock in which the fossils remain preserved from the early Cretaceous period – around 120 million years ago – is only about 1 meter below the topsoil. “This year, we have found dinosaur teeth that have not been seen before. If these are confirmed to be newly discovered species, it would further expand the variety of dinosaurs that existed in Asia,” said Rattanaphorn Hanta, a researcher at the Khorat Fossil Museum.

The Fukui museum is hoping to push forward the archaeological teams that are working in Asia – including researchers in China, South Korea, and Thailand – to unearth these fossils, and so they are putting up an Asian dinosaur association to be launched this summer, with the Fukui Prefectural Dinosaur Museum serving the hub for its activities. Just last year, the Fukui museum had more than 500,000 visitors – that’s six times higher than any natural history museum in Japan. Over 80% of the visitors are families with their children, as they walk around the dinosaur displays in total wonder. The museum wants to keep adding to its collection so that the momentum for the museum keeps moving forward. At the moment, though, the museum authorities are quite happy with the fame of the museum. “Many visitors come just by word of mouth,” said Masayoshi Shirasaki, a Fukui prefectural official who was part of the museum staff when it was first established.


Japan uncovers its first ceratopsian dinosaur fossil

Japan uncovers its first ceratopsian dinosaur fossilScientists in Satsumasendai, Kagoshima Prefecture have confirmed the discovery of a fossilized tooth from a ceratopsian dinosaur, the first such finding from the species in Japan’s history. Before migrating to North America,ceratopsians, a type of plant-eating, horned dinosaur, such as a triceratops, originated in East Asia during the early Cretaceous period.

Tokyo’s National Museum of Nature and Science says this is only Japan’s second finding of a fossil from a horned dinosaur, with the first coming from a neoceratops, a more primitive dinosaur species, discovered in Hyogo Prefecture. This is the first ceratopsian fossil for Japan, and the third to be found in all of Asia. The previous two were dug up in the countries of China and Uzbekistan. A full report on the fossil will be presented in June at the next Paleontological Society of Japan meeting in Kumamoto Prefecture.

The tooth fossil is described as being a joint from a dental root, measuring 12.1 millimeters long, 8.6 millimeters tall, and 3.7 millimeters thick. It was actually found in November 2011, when a local board of education was conducting a survey. As the only type of dinosaurs with two dental roots, ceratopsians are understood to use their mouth like scissors when biting vegetation off plants. The fossil’s unique shape led directly to its identification as coming from a ceratopsian. Scientists say it was almost a match to previous triceratops fossils, which have mostly been found in North America. Experts believe the length of the dinosaur’s body was 2 to 3 meters (6.5 to 9.8 feet) or more.

[via Asia One]