Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

A shrunken giant: Island dino Magyarosaurus was a dwarf, after all

Date:
May 3, 2010
Source:
University of Bonn
Summary:
Sauropod dinosaurs, like the famous Brachiosaurus or Argentinosaurus, are known above all for their enormous size. Yet some of these giants evolved into dwarfs. An international research team has now confirmed that the sauropod dinosaur Magyarosaurus dacus, a close relative of the Argentinosaurus, never grew any larger than a horse.

Koen Stein holding Magyarosaurus lower leg bones. In the background, the lower leg of the Argentinosaurus dinosaur exhibition at the Museum Koenig in Bonn.
Credit: Jose Carballido / Koen Stein / University of Bonn

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. Among these finds were a number of bones belonging to a sauropod dinosaur which Nopcsa named Magyarosaurus dacus, after his native country.

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," says Stein, who carried out the research as part of his PhD studies. "Bone is a living tissue, and throughout an animal's life it is constantly dissipating and building up again." 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," Stein explains.

A dwarf among giants

Over the years, palaeontologists have frequently debated the question of whether or not the Magyarosaurus was a dwarf. Martin Sander, spokesperson of the Research Group on Sauropod Biology funded by Germany's central research funding foundation the DFG (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft) notes, "An animal the size of a horse may not seem like a dwarf to most people but, in sauropod terms, it's tiny!"

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. For in the subsequent decades, other researchers found big sauropod bones on the Transylvanian site. They therefore concluded that Magyarosaurus was simply a youngster, while the larger bones came from fully grown adults.

The study now being published 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," explains Martin Sander. "We were also able to demonstrate that the bigger bones found in that area belong to a different dinosaur species." 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.

The team's findings are now to appear in the science journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Bonn. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. K. Stein, Z. Csiki, K. C. Rogers, D. B. Weishampel, R. Redelstorff, J. L. Carballido, P. M. Sander. Small body size and extreme cortical bone remodeling indicate phyletic dwarfism in Magyarosaurus dacus (Sauropoda: Titanosauria). Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2010; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1000781107

Cite This Page:

University of Bonn. "A shrunken giant: Island dino Magyarosaurus was a dwarf, after all." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 May 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100503111513.htm>.
University of Bonn. (2010, May 3). A shrunken giant: Island dino Magyarosaurus was a dwarf, after all. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100503111513.htm
University of Bonn. "A shrunken giant: Island dino Magyarosaurus was a dwarf, after all." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100503111513.htm (accessed April 20, 2014).

Share This



More Fossils & Ruins News

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Mich. Boy Unearths 10,000-Year-Old Mastodon Tooth

Mich. Boy Unearths 10,000-Year-Old Mastodon Tooth

Newsy (Apr. 20, 2014) A 9-year-old Michigan boy was exploring a creek when he came across a 10,000-year-old tooth from a prehistoric mastodon. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Couple Finds Love Letters From WWI In Attic

Couple Finds Love Letters From WWI In Attic

Newsy (Apr. 17, 2014) A couple found love letters from World War I in their attic. They were able to deliver them to relatives of the writer of those letters. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Erotic Art Offers Glimpse of China's 'lost' Sexual Philosophy

Erotic Art Offers Glimpse of China's 'lost' Sexual Philosophy

AFP (Apr. 16, 2014) Explicit Chinese art works dating back centuries go on display in Hong Kong, revealing China's ancient relationship with sex. Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
French Historians Fight to Save Iconic La Samaritaine Buildings

French Historians Fight to Save Iconic La Samaritaine Buildings

AFP (Apr. 15, 2014) Parisians and local historians are fighting to save one of the French capital's iconic buildings, the La Samaritaine department store. Duration: 01:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins