Nowadays, it seems the discoveries of prehistoric remains are all happening by chance. It was a nine-year-old who came upon the skeleton of a Stegomastodon. Now, two brothers have found an impressive water bird fossil while on a hike in northern Japan.
The new species, named Chupkaornis keraorum, belonged to a group of ancient birds, hesperorinthiforms, that were flightless, expert water divers during the Cretaceous [period].
Estimates claim the bird was the size of a healthy duck. With sturdy hind legs and tiny forelimbs, it presumably lived mostly in water. Prior, the bird has never been found in Japan.
“It’s really helping us understand the global distribution of a widespread group of birds. And it helps us understand their early evolution.”
Remains of the diving bird have only been present in North America. Contrary to popular belief, fossil discoveries are often made by common citizens. Significant findings don’t always require an active search. Sometimes, a sense of adventure is all anyone needs.
Hiking is always an exciting activity. You discover a lot of things — about yourself, about nature, and if you’re this young boy, occasionally a 1-million-year-old fossil. The bones were from a Stegomastodon, or prehistoric elephant.
“I was running farther up, and I tripped on part of the tusk,” Jude Sparks, who was hiking in the desert with his parents and brothers, said. “My face landed next to the bottom jaw. I looked farther up, and there was another tusk.”
Talk about sheer coincidence! The family immediately contacted the New Mexico State University, who confirmed that the skull was only one of two complete fossils. The skull measured to weigh nearly a ton.
“I have every hope and expectation that this specimen will ultimately end up on exhibit and this little boy will be able to show his friends, and even his own children, ‘Look what I found right here in Las Cruces,'” [said NMSU professor Peter Houde].
As for the rest of the animal’s remains, there’s a chance they are hiding nearby. “It’s quite possible it was preserved.”
While the skull was held together by surrounding sediment, it’s possible the rest of the skeleton eroded away. Whatever the case, Jude now has an incredible story to tell.