Washington: Magyarosaurus dacus, the dinosaur whose small bones were found in Transylvania, was indeed a dwarf, confirmed scientists.
In 1895, the sister of an eccentric palaeontologist called Franz Baron Nopcsa discovered small dinosaur bones on their family estate in Transylvania.
Nopcsa interpreted these as the remains of dwarfed animals that had once lived on an island, including a sauropod dinosaur which Nopcsa named Magyarosaurus dacus, after his native country.
Now, a team of scientists led by Koen Stein and Professor Dr. Martin Sander from the University of Bonn, decided to cut up the fossil bones of the dwarfed dinosaur and study their microstructure.
"It``s astonishing that the microanatomy of these bones has been preserved for us to study after 70 million years. Bone is a living tissue, and throughout an animal``s life it is constantly dissipating and building up again," said Stein.
Humans, for example, have completely resorbed and rebuilt their skeleton by the time they are fully grown. This also occurred in sauropod dinosaurs.
"We were able to distinguish these rebuilding features in Magyarosaurus, which prove that the little dinosaur was fully grown," explained Stein.
Over the years, palaeontologists have frequently debated the question of whether or not the Magyarosaurus was a dwarf.
"An animal the size of a horse may not seem like a dwarf to most people but, in sauropod terms, it``s tiny!" said Martin Sander, spokesperson of the Research Group on Sauropod Biology.
When Magyarosaurus was discovered in Transylvania (then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire), the palaeontologist Nopcsa advanced the idea that Magyarosaurus was an island dwarf, but he could not prove it back then, at the beginning of the 20th century.
Many discoveries have since indicated that his theory might be correct, especially the fossils of dwarf elephants and hippopotamuses found on Mediterranean islands like Sicily, Malta and Cyprus.
However, scientists first pursued a different theory, as other researchers found big sauropod bones on the Transylvanian site in the subsequent decades.
Thus, they concluded that Magyarosaurus was simply a youngster, while the larger bones came from fully-grown adults.
But the current study provides conclusive evidence that Nopcsa``s hunch had been right all along.
"Our study shows that dinosaurs on islands were subject to the same ecological and evolutionary processes that shape modern mammals. We were also able to demonstrate that the bigger bones found in that area belong to a different dinosaur species," explained Sander.
Whether they come from stray animals who swam to the island from the mainland, or from large ancestors of the dwarf Magyarosaurus, remains a secret shrouded in the mists of pre-historic time. (ANI)