sábado, 14 de enero de 2012

Palaeontology - 18-million-year-old rhino fossils unearthed in Nagasaki

The fossilized remains of a rhinoceros believed to be around 18 million years old have been unearthed here, officials at the Matsuura Municipal Board of Education and Fukui Prefectural Dinosaur Museum said on Jan. 13. 

A picture shows the fossils found on the coast of Matsuura, Nagasaki Prefecture [Credit: Mainichi]

The remains were found on the coast of Matsuura's Takashimacho district, and are thought to be among the oldest of their kind in Japan. 

There are five species of rhino living in Asia, Africa and other regions, including the black rhinoceros and Sumatran rhinoceros. Their ancestors are thought to have first appeared some 23 million years ago, and the latest find is seen as important in understanding the evolution process of the animals. 

Officials at the Fukui Prefectural Dinosaur Museum said the fossilized remains, which were found at the water's edge on the coast of Matsuura, were discovered between November 2009 and June 2010, and museum workers set about extracting them. There were reportedly about 100 pieces, including roughly 60 making up a large part of the animal's backbone (about one-quarter of its full length). 

Researchers estimated that the rhino had a body length of 2.4 meters, and a girth of 2.2 meters. Based on the state of the ground where the fossil was found and the characteristics of the skeleton, researchers said it was likely that the rhino had lived alongside a swamp, river or another water source, and that its variety is already extinct. It is believed that the Japanese archipelago was connected to mainland Asia at the time. 

Rhinoceros fossils from the same period have been found in Kani, Gifu Prefecture, but this time marks the biggest collection of rhino parts to be found in one spot. Museum officials say such finds are rare. 

"Only seven or eight finds of Rhinocerotidae fossils from the same period have been found in China and other areas of East Asia," said Kazunori Miyata, a chief researcher at the museum. Officials will now try to determine whether the recent find represents a new species. 

The fossils will be on display at the Matsuura City Hall between Jan. 14 and 26, and at the dinosaur museum from Feb. 1 to March 25. 

The Mainichi Daily News 

Source: The Archaeology News Network

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