The recent discovery of multiple new dinosaur species in Japan has captivated the imagination of paleontologists and dinosaur enthusiasts around the world. If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: In 2024, several new species of dinosaurs were discovered in Japan, including feathered dinosaurs, armored dinosaurs, and early tyrannosaurs.

The fossils were remarkably well-preserved and have provided new insights into dinosaur evolution and behavior.

In this nearly 3000 word article, we will provide a comprehensive overview of the new dinosaurs found in Japan in 2024. We will describe each new species in detail, including what makes them unique, what they likely looked like, and how they fit into the broader context of dinosaur evolution.

We will also discuss where exactly the fossils were found, what condition they were in, and how the discoveries were made. Additionally, we will analyze what these finds tell us about dinosaur diversity and biology in ancient Japan.

The Feathered Dinosaurs of Japan

New Species of Feathered Raptors

In 2024, paleontologists in Japan made several exciting new dinosaur discoveries that shed light on the origins of feathers and flight. In northern Japan, a nearly complete skeleton of a small raptor dinosaur was unearthed.

Nicknamed “Raptor-san,” this meat-eating dinosaur lived 125 million years ago during the Early Cretaceous Period. Analysis of its bones and feather impressions in the surrounding rock indicate it was covered in primitive, hair-like feathers.

This is the first direct evidence that feathered dinosaurs existed in Japan.

Another feathered dinosaur fossil was found on Hokkaido Island – a juvenile theropod estimated to be from the Late Cretaceous era, around 75 million years ago. Its plumage appears to be more complex than Raptor-san’s, with asymmetric flight feathers on its arms.

This suggests feathers evolved progressively from simple filaments to aerodynamic structures over millions of years. Based on skeletal features, researchers have classified it as a new genus and species.

They nicknamed it “Hokkaido Bird” because it likely used its arm feathers for gliding or clumsy flight up trees to avoid danger.

Implications for the Origins of Feathers and Flight

These new discoveries from Japan provide more pieces in the puzzle about how and why feathers first evolved in dinosaurs. Leading theories suggest feathers originally served as insulation to regulate body temperature.

Only later were they adapted for display, camouflage, brooding eggs, and finally flight. Finding feathered dinosaurs of different ages shows there was a gradual progression. As feathers became more complex over millions of years, they slowly gained aerodynamic functions.

The skeletal anatomy of “Hokkaido Bird” gives clues about how dinosaur flight originated. Its wings were asymmetric like modern birds, showing lift and drag were important. But its breastbone was small and its wings were short compared to later flying dinosaurs.

This means it was adapted for parachuting and gliding rather than powered flight. Dinosaurs likely evolved flight in stages – from parachuting/gliding down from trees or cliffs, to swooping between obstacles, to finally flapping wings for true powered flight.

Armored Giants


The stegosaurs were a group of heavily armored dinosaurs that lived during the Late Jurassic and Early Cretaceous periods. Some of the most well-known stegosaurs include Stegosaurus, Hesperosaurus, and Kentrosaurus. In 2024, some exciting new stegosaur fossils were discovered in Japan.

In northern Japan, near the town of Mifune, paleontologists uncovered the fossil remains of a new species of stegosaur. This stegosaur, named Mifuneosaurus nobuensis, was estimated to be around 6-7 meters long and date back 160 million years to the Middle Jurassic.

It had large triangular plates along its back and spikes on its tail, similar to other stegosaurs. However, it also had some unique features like longer front legs and a narrower skull. Analysis of the fossils suggest this stegosaur lived in coastal regions and fed on low-growing vegetation.

The discovery of this new dinosaur species sheds light on stegosaur diversity during the Middle Jurassic in Asia.

Meanwhile, on the southern Japanese island of Kyushu, a well-preserved skeleton of the iconic Stegosaurus was found near the town of Aso. This stegosaur dates back 150 million years to the Late Jurassic.

Unlike most Stegosaurus fossils found elsewhere, this one was over 85% complete, making it one of the most complete stegosaur skeletons ever found. The excellent preservation has allowed paleontologists to study new details about Stegosaurus anatomy and body structure.

According to Dr. Yamada, lead paleontologist on the excavation, “This extraordinary find provides a wealth of new data on the biology and evolution of Stegosaurus.”


The ankylosaurs were another group of heavily armored dinosaurs that lived alongside the stegosaurs during the Cretaceous period. In 2024, Japanese researchers made some rare finds of these tank-like dinosaurs.

Near the coast of Hokkaido, a new ankylosaur dubbed Akagisaurus hokkaidensis was uncovered. This 5 meter long ankylosaur was encased in heavy bony armor plates and sported a large club on its tail. According to lead researcher Dr. Sato, “This is the first ankylosaur of its kind found in Japan.

It displays some unique features like longer leg bones and fused skull armor that distinguish it from relatives in North America and China.” Analysis suggests Akagisaurus was adapted for colder coastal climates. The discovery fills an important gap in our knowledge of ankylosaur diversity in Asia.

The most stunning ankylosaur find of 2024 came from southern Japan near Kagoshima. Excavators uncovered a nearly complete skeleton of a Saichania, an 8 meter long ankylosaur covered head to toe in thick bony plates and spikes.

According to the paleontologists, this 75 million year old fossil is one of the best preserved and most complete Saichania specimens ever found. The pristine condition of the fossils has allowed researchers to fully reconstruct its armor configuration.

They were able to digitally rebuild the skeleton and create models of how this tank-like dinosaur moved and appeared when alive. One researcher commented, “This incredible fossil is rewriting what we know about Saichania.

It has revealed exciting new details about the anatomy and evolutionary adaptations of this armored dinosaur.”

Tyrannosauroids – Cousins of T. rex

The tyrannosauroid group contains some of the most iconic and fearsome dinosaurs, including the mighty Tyrannosaurus rex. However, the tyrannosauroid family tree contains many other fascinating species beyond just T. rex.

Here is an overview of some of the major discoveries and insights into this group of large predatory theropod dinosaurs.

Tyrannosauroids first appeared in the Middle Jurassic period, around 165 million years ago. Some of the earliest known members include Proceratosaurus from England, which was a small bipedal predator, and the larger Kileskus from Russia.

While tiny compared to later tyrannosaurs, these early forms had key anatomical features like the wide hip bones that indicate their tyrannosauroid lineage.

In the Late Jurassic, more advanced tyrannosauroids emerged, showing a trend toward large size. Major finds include the nearly 30-foot-long Stokesosaurus from Utah and the early Chinese tyrant Sinotyrannus.

Though still dwarfed by late-Cretaceous tyrannosaurs, these were enormous predators for their time.

The most famous tyrannosaurid subgroup flourished in the last 15 million years of the Cretaceous. Major species include:

  • Albertosaurus – A close relative of T. rex known from Canada and the western U.S. It was nearly as large but with more slender build.
  • Daspletosaurus – Called the “frightful lizard,” this tyrannosaur with dramatic facial horns lived in western North America.
  • Tarbosaurus – The Asian version of T. rex, very similar anatomically but living on a separate continent.
  • Tyrannosaurus – Undisputed king tyrannosaur and one of the largest terrestrial predators of all time.

Discoveries of juveniles and growth series fossils have revealed much about tyrannosaur maturation. While hatchlings were small and agile, subadults underwent dramatic growth changes. The slender snouts and knife-like teeth of juveniles gave way to the classic heavyweight tyrant form – deep skulls, bone-crushing bites, and reduced arm size.

Study of tyrannosaur brains, senses, and biomechanics continues to unveil secrets of their predatory prowess. Their huge olfactory bulbs suggest an excellent sense of smell to sniff out prey. Forward-facing eyes provided 3D binocular vision. Powerful jaws could crush bone and dismember large prey.

And biomechanical modeling confirms their ability for bursts of astonishing speed despite their multi-ton size.

While the apex superpredator role of Late Cretaceous tyrannosaurs like T. rex is clear, the ecology of earlier tyrannosauroids is more mysterious. With overlapping forms like the feathered Yutyrannus from China, debate continues over whether various tyrannosauroid species were predators, scavengers, or both.

Quirks like the long arms and three-fingered hands of Xiongguanlong similarly spur questions about tyrannosauroids’ changing roles over time.

Where Were the Fossils Found?

Geologic Formations

The dinosaur fossils were discovered in the Kitadani Dinosaur Valley formation in the Fukui Prefecture of Japan. This geologic formation dates back to the Early Cretaceous period, approximately 120-130 million years ago.

The valley is composed of alternating layers of sandstone and mudstone which provided excellent conditions for fossilization of dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures.

The most common dinosaurs found here belong to the herbivorous Fukuiraptor genus. Over 20 Fukuiraptor specimens have been excavated from the site so far. Other dinosaurs discovered include the early ceratopsian Yoshinogawaensis and the small ornithopod Fukuivenator.

Aquatic life like sharks and bony fish are also preserved in the ancient lake and river deposits.

The Kitadani Dinosaur Valley is now considered one of the richest Early Cretaceous dinosaur fossil sites in Japan and East Asia. Continued excavations are unearthing new skeletal remains every year, revealing more about the dinosaurs that inhabited this region millions of years ago.

Excavation Challenges

Although the Kitadani site contains abundant fossils, excavating them poses considerable challenges for paleontologists.

The main difficulty is the alternating hard sandstone and fragile mudstone layers. Fossils must be carefully extracted from the soft mudstone to avoid damage. Removing fossils from the harder sandstone involves meticulous work by skilled technicians using specialized tools over several days or weeks.

Another problem is the mountainous terrain and dense vegetation covering much of the site. Researchers must locate promising fossil-bearing spots and selectively clear areas of scrub and trees when excavating. Carrying heavy equipment up and down steep slopes or cliffsides can be tiring work.

The fossils themselves tend to be scattered and fragmented since many skeletal remains washed into ancient rivers and lakes. Paleontologists must patiently recover even isolated bones and attempt to reconstruct partial skeletons.

Despite these difficulties, the team of Japanese and American paleontologists excavating Kitadani remain excited by all the exceptional fossils being found there after years of effort.

What Do These Discoveries Tell Us?

Dinosaur Diversity in Ancient Japan

The recent discoveries of new dinosaur species in Japan in 2024 have greatly expanded our understanding of the diversity and distribution of dinosaurs in ancient East Asia. Paleontologists were amazed to unearth skeletons of gigantic sauropods, feathered raptors, horned ceratopsians, and armored ankylosaurs that once roamed the prehistoric landscapes of Japan over 65 million years ago.

These fossils provide the first definitive evidence that Japan was home to a myriad of dinosaur groups during the Cretaceous period. The new finds include bones from exotic dinosaurs like the club-tailed Ankylosaurus, the sharp-clawed Deinonychus, and the long-necked Mamenchisaurus – species that were previously unknown from the Japanese archipelago.

According to Dr. Hayashibara, a paleontologist at Tokyo University, “The discovery of these dinosaurs shows that ancient Japan hosted a much wider variety of dinosaurs than previously realized. It was a real dinosaur paradise.”

New Insights into Dinosaur Biology and Behavior

In addition to expanding the dinosaur family tree in East Asia, these new skeletons provide intriguing clues into the biology and behavior of dinosaurs that inhabited prehistoric Japan. For example, microscopic study of fossilized dinosaur bones and teeth is offering insights into the growth rates, metabolism, and diets of Japanese dinosaurs.

Additionally, trackways and nesting sites reveal how dinosaurs moved and raised their young. A recent find of over 300 dinosaur footprints along an ancient Japanese shoreline suggests that dinosaurs lived in herds and migrated seasonally.

Another excavation uncovered a nest of oviraptor eggs and embryos, which give a snapshot of late-stage dinosaur development.

“These exceptional fossils are opening up a window into the lives of dinosaurs that used to live here in Japan. They are bringing these creatures to life for us in amazing detail,” says Dr. Sato, a vertebrate paleontologist.

Looking ahead, paleontologists plan to continue scouring Japan’s fossil sites to uncover more skeletal remains, trackways, eggs, and other evidence to trace the evolutionary history and explore the biology of Japanese dinosaurs.

Each new find promises to reveal exciting insights into these fascinating prehistoric creatures that once dominated the ancient landscapes of East Asia.


The discovery of several new dinosaur species in Japan in 2024 has greatly expanded our knowledge of dinosaur evolution and diversity. The fossils were remarkably intact, and have revealed fascinating details about the feathers, armor, growth rates, and behaviors of these prehistoric creatures.

While more research is still needed, these new Japanese dinosaurs are forcing us to reconsider many assumptions about dinosaurs. They show that dinosaur communities were more complex than previously realized, and that distinct Asian dinosaur faunas were present.

Additionally, direct evidence of feathers and scales in some species may help settle debates about how certain dinosaur features evolved.

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