‘Dino’ Bone Turns Out To Be From An Extinct Sea Cow

Japanese paleontologists have identified an uncatalogued ‘dinosaur’ bone as belonging to an extinct sea mammal.

AsianScientist (Aug. 6, 2018) – A large bone inside an old wooden box in the geological collection room of the University of Tsukuba, Japan, has been found to belong to a large marine mammal that lived 10-23 million years ago. This research has been published in Royal Society Open Science.

In the spring of 2017, Dr. Yuri Kimura from the Department of Geology and Paleontology at the National Museum of Nature and Science, Tsukuba, Japan, discovered a large bone inside an old wooden box in the geological collection room of the University of Tsukuba, Japan. The fossil was known to be a ‘dinosaur’ bone by locals and had originally been displayed in the village hall until an unknown university teacher took it.

Based on the bone’s overall features, Kimura knew that the thigh bone (or femur) belonged to an extinct marine mammal, a member of the order Desmostylia, thought to be related to hippo-like rhinoceroses, or sea cows. The bone had well-preserved muscle scars on its surface, making it useful for future studies of the locomotion of the hind limb.

Kimura then teamed up with Dr. Kumiko Matsui at Kyushu University—one of the few Desmostylia experts—to learn more about the fossil. The researchers identified the bone as belonging to an organism of the genus Paleoparadoxia—large, four-limbed, marine mammals that lived in the North Pacific rim, from Japan to the western coast of the USA and Mexico, 10-23 million years ago.

With the help of an old note and local knowledge, the researchers also discovered that the bone was first unearthed during dam construction in the town of Tsuchiyu Onsen, near the city of Fukushima in Japan.

“Museum collections are passed down from generation to generation, hopefully for thousands of years or more,” said Kimura. “We are happy that specimen information was extracted, even after a long hiatus, owing to the hand-written note kept with the fossil, as well as the kind help of local people… We believe that this specimen is a good lesson not only for vertebrate palaeontologists but also for all museum curators and researchers.”

The article can be found at: Matsui et al. (2018) A Long-forgotten ‘Dinosaur’ Bone From a Museum Cabinet, Uncovered to Be a Japan’s Iconic Extinct Mammal, Paleoparadoxia (Desmostylia, Mammalia).


Source: University of Tsukuba.
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