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'Elegant' ammonite fossil discovered in Hokkaido town identified as new species

This Jan. 13, 2021 photo at Mikasa City Museum in Hokkaido shows fossil pieces of an ammonite that has been identified as a new species. (Mainichi/Hiroto Watanabe)

MIKASA, Hokkaido -- A fossilized ammonite discovered in the town of Haboro in Japan's northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido has been identified as a new species, it has been reported.

    Mikasa City Museum in the same prefecture announced the discovery in a journal published on Jan. 1 by the Palaeontological Society of Japan.

    The fossil was found in a stratum from the Cretaceous period of the Mesozoic era (about 86.3 million years to 89.8 million years ago). Ammonites were an ancient relative of squid and octopi that had spiral shells. Throughout Japan's 47 prefectures, the highest number of ammonite fossils have been found in Hokkaido. The fossil of the new species was among those collected by Tetsuro Iwasaki, 26, then a graduate school student at Yokohama National University, and Mikasa City Museum researchers between 2015 and 2018 in a river in Haboro. The newly discovered ammonite, which has whorls that point vertically, has been named "Yezoceras Elegans" after the elegant-looking form of its conical spiral shell.

    To commemorate the discovery, the museum is planning a special exhibition featuring the new species from Feb. 2 to March 28.

    "The city of Mikasa was under the sea 100 million years ago," said the museum's chief researcher Daisuke Aiba. "I would like visitors to feel the romanticism of ancient times."

    (Japanese original by Hiroto Watanabe, Asahikawa Bureau)

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