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Largest fossilized dinosaur skeleton unearthed in Japan unveiled

Bones of a fossilized "Mukawa dinosaur" skeleton are seen after being cleaned, in the town of Mukawa, Hokkaido, on Sept. 4, 2018. (Mainichi)

MUKAWA, Hokkaido -- The largest fossilized dinosaur skeleton unearthed in Japan has been removed from its rocky bed and was unveiled to the press here on Sept. 4.

According researchers from the Hokkaido University Museum in Japan's northernmost prefecture and the local Hobetsu Museum, the dinosaur is a type of Hadrosaurid, or plant-eating dinosaur, measuring about 8 meters in length. It is known as the "Mukawa dinosaur," after the name of the town where it was discovered.

The image shows the skeleton of a type of Hadrosaurid (Image courtesy of the Hobetsu Museum)

"There is a very high possibility that it's a new species as the skeleton has characteristics not seen in other types of Hadrosaurid," said research team member Yoshitsugu Kobayashi, a Hokkaido University associate professor specializing in ancient animals with backbones.

The fossil was discovered in the town in 2003 in a stratum believed to date back 72 million years, during the late Cretaceous period. It's believed that the skeleton was almost completely preserved because at the time, that area lay at the bottom of the sea at a depth of 80 to 200 meters.

The team worked on cleaning about 6 tons of rocks where the fossilized skeleton lay for some four and a half years starting in 2013. In general, a Hadrosaurid skeleton consists of 255 bones. A total of 157 bones, including the skull and tailbones were found in the latest research. This is about 60 percent of the total number of bones and represents about 80 percent of the whole skeleton by cubic volume.

The team will try to identify differences between the skeleton and those of other types of Hadrosaurid.

(Japanese original by Hidehiro Fukushima, Hokkaido News Department)

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