• Kyodo

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A dinosaur skull unearthed on a mountain in the town of Mifune, Kumamoto Prefecture, dates back about 85 million years ago, which means it is likely one of the oldest of its kind in Japan, a local museum said Saturday.

The Mifune Dinosaur Museum said the skull belonged to a herbivore called a hadrosaurid that was thriving in the early phase of the Late Cretaceous Period.

Hadrosaurids stood about 7 to 8 meters tall and had heads with wide, flat bills that resemble that of the modern-day platypus. They are also called “duck-billed dinosaurs.”

Hadrosaurid fossils have mainly been found in North America and Asia, where the dinosaurs were believed to have been alive in the latter phase of the Late Cretaceous Period, which dates back to between about 65 million and 83 million years ago.

This is the first time a hadrosaurid skull has been found in Japan, though other parts of hadrosaurids have been found in Hokkaido, Fukushima and Hyogo. This makes it a missing link of sorts, said Naoki Ikegami, 39, a curator with the museum.

“The fossil will give clues to clarifying hadrosaurids’ evolution process,” Ikegami said.

The skull was found in a stream in February 2004 by a fossil-hunter. It was identified as that of a hadrosaurid after undergoing cleaning to remove petrified material around it.

The town of Mifune has yielded numerous dinosaur fossils over the years, including those of a Tyrannosaurus rex, which was one of the largest meat-eating dinosaurs.

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