From Kyodo news agency in Japan:
Paleontologist finds fossil of gator dating back 20 million years on Oki
by Haruka Nishimoto
Dec 30, 2013
MATSUE, SHIMANE PREF. – Shigenori Kawano, 32, found last summer what was later identified as East Asia’s oldest fossil of a giant alligator, dating from around 20 million years ago, on Oki Island in the Sea of Japan.
In mid-July, the researcher at Shimane Nature Museum of Mount Sanbe found a 30-cm rock on the Shimane Prefecture island’s shore while studying local animal and plant life.
Kawano said that when he saw part of a bone exposed on the surface of the rock, he instantly knew it must be that of a reptile.
“The size was nothing compared with that of a turtle or a soft-shelled turtle,” he said.
After carefully examining the rock, he learned that the bone, which measured 21 by 18 cm, was a fossilized portion of the backbone of an alligator estimated to be up to 7 meters long.
Kawano said, “I spontaneously shouted, ‘I did it!’ “
The previous oldest fossil of a giant alligator was found on the Penghu Islands in Taiwan and is believed to date from about 10 million years ago.
A native of Takeo, Saga Prefecture, Kawano was a second-grader when he started collecting fossils.
Taken by his father, who was a civil engineer, he collected fossils of snails and shark teeth not only in coastal areas and construction sites in Saga Prefecture but also in other parts of northern Kyushu and Shikoku.
Since his mother and younger brother were also fans of archaeology, it has become a sort of “leisure activity for our family,” Kawano said.
When his family went on an excavation trip to a remote island, all of the members got so absorbed in digging that they forgot that the tide was rising and were almost unable to return to the mainland.
Kawano has made remarkable discoveries since he was a junior high school student.
He found a bird bill from about 34 million years ago when he was a sophomore at junior high school and the bill is still a treasure for him.
At Shimane University, which he chose to enter simply because he can go fishing and fossil hunting by bicycle, he studied paleontology for 10 years.
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