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Japan's largest fossilized dinosaur confirmed to be new species, named 'Kamuysaurus'

Hokkaido University professor Yoshitsugu Kobayashi, left, and Yoshiyuki Takenaka, the mayor of the Hokkaido town of Mukawa, smile beside the fossilized skeleton (foreground) and a replica of the newly named dinosaur "Kamuysaurus japonicus" at the National Museum of Nature and Science in Tokyo's Taito Ward, on Sept. 4, 2019. (Mainichi/Etsuko Nagayama)

TOKYO -- The largest fossilized dinosaur skeleton ever found in Japan, excavated in the Hokkaido town of Mukawa, has been confirmed to be of a new species and named "Kamuysaurus japonicus."

A scientific team including researchers from Hokkaido University revealed their findings in an online journal on Sept. 6. The dinosaur had been tentatively called "Mukawaryu" after the name of the town where the fossil was found, before the formal switch to Kamuysaurus. "Kamuy" means god in the language of the indigenous Ainu people of Hokkaido, Japan's northernmost prefecture.

"While it's standard in academia to name the dinosaur after the region (where it was uncovered), we incorporated the (cultural) identity of the land in naming the dinosaur, based on our belief that it represents Japan," said Yoshitsugu Kobayashi, a Hokkaido University professor who analyzed the fossil.

Kamuysaurus is a kind of plant-eating Hadrosaurid, and was judged to be a new species due to unique skull characteristics and forward-leaning projections on its vertebrae. It's believed that the dinosaur, measuring about 8 meters long and estimated to weigh between 4 and 5.3 metric tons when alive, lived near the coast as the bones were buried in an ocean stratum.

The dinosaur was unearthed in 2003 from a 72 million-year-old geological layer formed in the late Cretaceous period. It was the first time that such a large and nearly complete fossilized dinosaur, from its nose to its tail, had been discovered in Japan.

The research was published in the British online journal Scientific Reports.

(Japanese original by Etsuko Nagayama, Opinion Group)

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