August 8, 2017
During a walk near a reservoir in a small Japanese town, amateur collectors made the discovery of their lives - the first and oldest fossil bird ever identified in their country.
After sharing their mysterious find with paleontologists at Hokkaido University, brothers Masatoshi and Yasuji Kera later learned the skeletal remains were that of an iconic marine diving bird from the Late Cretaceous Period, one that is often found in the Northern Hemisphere but rarely in Asia. The remarkable specimen - which includes nine skeletal elements from one individual, including the thoracic vertebrae and the femoral bones - is being heralded as the "best preserved hesperornithiform material from Asia" and to be "the first report of the hesperorinthiforms from the eastern margin of the Eurasian Continent."
Identified as a new species, it has been named Chupkaornis keraorum - Chupka is the Ainu word used by indigenous people from Hokkaido for 'eastern,' and keraorum is named after Masatoshi and Yasuji Kera, who discovered the specimen. The bird would have lived during the time when dinosaurs roamed the land.