Thursday, February 25, 2010

Island of dwarf dinosaurs did exist

An island of "dwarf dinosaurs" which was only a theory for 100 years really did survive, scientists have announced.

The idea of the tiny prehistoric beasts on Hateg Island, Romania, was proposed 100 years before by the colourful Baron Franz Nopcsa, whose family owned estates in the area.

He discovers that many dinosaur remains on Hateg were half the size of their close relatives in older rocks in England, Germany, and North America.

The baron's theory has been checked for the first time by Professor Mike Benton at the University of Bristol, and six other authors from Romania, Germany, and the United States.

The team found that the Hateg Island dinosaurs were in fact dwarfs and not just young dinosaurs.
A favourite theme of evolutionary ecologists is whether there is an "island rule" - where gigantic animals isolated on islands evolve to become smaller.

Three species of the Hateg dinosaurs - the plant-eating sauropod Magyarosaurus and the plant-eating ornithopods Telmatosaurus and Zalmoxes - are half the length of their close relatives elsewhere.

The team examined these three dinosaurs, each of them represented by many specimens. They found no evidence of any large bones such as they would expect to locate in their normal-sized relatives.

More importantly, a close study of the bones proved that the Dinosaurs had reached adulthood so they were not just underdeveloped youngsters.

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