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Japanese Finds in Mongolia

To: dinosaur@usc.edu
From: Ben Creisler (bh480@scn.org)

Subject: Japanese Finds in Mongolia
Dr. Mahito Watabe from the Hayashibara Museum of Natural Science,
Okayama, Japan, gave a presentation at the University of
Washington on Friday evening, March 12, 1999, about five years of
Japanese expeditions to the Gobi in Mongolia. Dressed in a
traditional Mongolian outfit and using slides and video, he
offered a lively and entertaining account of the team's
adventures with Russian trucks, bad roads, tick-infestations and
searing temperatures. I would have liked a bit more in-depth
information about the dinosaur finds, but the following struck me
as major highlights. Some of these items may have been mentioned
elsewhere, but a couple were new at least to me:

1. Avimimus. The team recently found a fairly complete skeleton.
The specimen confirms a number of features mentioned previously
in the literature, including an extraordinarily short bony tail,
typical coelurosaur hindlimbs and pelvis, with a vertical pubis,
and unusual, very birdlike forelimbs. The metacarpals are fused
and the ulna has ridges or bumps that may have anchored feathers.
Ribs and shoulder blades appear to be preserved this time. The
skull was not shown. In conversation, he explained that the
accompanying skull is incomplete, but includes a braincase and
parts of the "beak." He suspects it may have remains of small
teeth, but seemed unsure for now. In any case, Avimimus looks
like a legitimate taxon, not a juvenile Gallimimus or a chimera
as recently suggested. It's hard to say more until a detailed
formal description of the specimen is published, but the idea
that it might be related to Caudipteryx (particularly if small
teeth are confirmed) is at least plausible. Maybe its bony short
tail had long feathers for balance.

2. Mononykus. At least one nearly complete specimen, apparently
lacking a skull but with a lower jaw. The tail is intact, and
preserved in a long and curving position.

3. Protoceratops. A group of 12-15 very small juveniles, tightly
huddled together and facing in the same direction, likely
hatchlings out of the same clutch. A number of adults frozen in
"choking" postures were also found, with mouths wide open, heads
back and bodies twisting--very dramatic evidence of struggle in a
wall of wet sand moments before death.

4. Pinacosaurus. A group of at least 20 2-meter-long individuals
found together, further evidence that some ankylosaurs formed
social groups as juveniles (in this case, about half-grown).

5. A Tarbosaurus and a Saurolophus found side-by-side.

The next day at the Burke Museum, he displayed some of the actual
fossil finds, including a nearly complete Djadochtatherium skull,
and egg fragments with embryonic bones.
Some of the discoveries mentioned above were described in a
short 1995 popular-level book in Japanese that he gave away.
Can't wait for formal descriptions of some this new material--
translated into English, of course!