Palaeontology: New findings on dwarf dinosaurs - Triops Galaxy

Palaeontology: Hungarian scientists with new findings on dwarf dinosaurs

Since 2019, an international research team led by the Department of Palaeontology at Eötvös Loránd University (ELTE) has been carrying out excavations near the settlement of Vălioara in Transylvania, Romania. The finds include several vertebrate bones from the end of the Cretaceous period, which are currently still being scientifically analysed. The first results on the dinosaur remains were recently published in the journal Cretaceous Research.

Rhabdodontidae family was endemic to the European archipelago 85 to 66 million years ago

The predominant dinosaur species whose remains have been found most frequently belongs to a relatively small, mostly bipedal herbivore species from the Rhabdodontidae family, which is the focus of the new publication. Although related species of this dinosaur family are known in North America and Australia, the Rhabdodontidae family was endemic to the European archipelago between 85 and 66 million years ago. The group of relatively small animals currently comprises nine species, some of which have been described by systematic excavations in the last two decades.

The current excavations in the Vălioara Valley, which are in their fourth year, have not only brought new finds to light, but have also contributed to the understanding of the geological structure of the basin and the former habitats of the dinosaurs.

Site K2, where the new discoveries were made, is located in the westernmost part of the Hatzeger Basin, where the oldest terrestrial rocks in the basin (~71 million years old) are found. These rocks indicate a wet, marshy environment by a lake, in contrast to other sites in the basin that are more representative of floodplain environments away from rivers. Due to the different environment and the older age of the site, it is believed that the investigations offer insights into a fauna with a significantly different composition, which requires further research in the region to fully understand this, explains Gábor Botfalvai, who is leading the excavations.

Attila Ősi, head of the Department of Palaeontology at ELTE and co-author of the new publication, emphasises the importance of studying the already identified finds as well as the newly collected ones, as many key elements of the previously described Transylvanian Rhabdodontidae dinosaurs are unknown and the revision is necessary.

Another significant aspect of the K2 site is the presence of at least two specimens of the same dinosaur species of similar size. Several parts of the skull and numerous bones from different body parts such as vertebrae and limbs were discovered. Such contiguous partial skeletons are extremely rare in dinosaurs of the Rhabdodontidae family, and this represents the first known occurrence of this species from the Vălioara sites, as Zoltán Csiki-Sava, lecturer at the University of Bucharest and head of the Romanian research team, adds.

Sladjan Lazic

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