Washington, June 14 : New evidence has confirmed that dwarf dinosaurs existed in Transylvania, the land of the mythical, blood-drinking Count Dracula.
According to a report in Discovery News, the sister of an eccentric Austro-Hungarian aristocrat named Baron von Nopsca found a tiny bone on the baron's family estate in Transylvania in 1900.
The baron, who was a dinosaur buff, identified the bone as belonging to a dwarf dino that likely once lived on an island in the region.
Though his theories were ridiculed and dismissed at that time, now new evidence suggests that his proposed island of dwarf dinosaurs did indeed exist in Transylvania.
"Brian Stoker's (Dracula) tale is without a very sustainable historical background, but that is not the case here," lead researcher Vlad Codrea told Discovery News.
Codrea, a professor of biology and geology at University Babes-Bolyai in Cluj-Napoca, Romania, and colleague Pascal Godefroit recently found several bones belonging to Zalmoxes shqiperorum, an herbivorous dinosaur with forelimbs that were much shorter than its hindlimbs.
Codrea and Godefroit unearthed the newly found bones in a red clay deposit at the Jibou Formation in Somes Odorhei, Romania.
"Obviously it was a dwarf dinosaur," said Codrea, who compared the dinosaur to its Rhabdodon relatives from southern France and northern Spain.
Rhabdodon, meaning "fluted tooth," measured just over 14 feet long, which, in itself, is a relatively small size for a dinosaur. Zalmoxes, on the other hand, was only 7 to 10 feet long.
The dwarf dinosaur has been classified as belonging to the iguanodont dinosaur group. These Mid Jurassic to Late Cretaceous animals included duck-billed dinos. Some members of the group could weigh up to eight tons and reach 50 feet in length.
The small Romanian dinosaur was apparently not a loner.
"Zalmoxes had in Transylvania select dinosaur company," said Codrea. "All were dwarves," he added.
According to Codrea, after the initial discovery on Nopsca's estate, the baron set off on his motorcycle to excavate various parts of his homeland. Over the years, he found bones belonging to multiple dwarfed species.
These included a sauropod named Magyarosaurus dacus, which looked like a tiny version of a brontosaurus or diplodocus, and the ankylosaur Strutiosaurus transilvanicus, whose body was covered by many tiny bones that formed a protective shield.
A duck-billed dinosaur called Telmatosaurus transylvanicus was also excavated in the area, along with several carnivorous dinos, such as Velociraptorinae indet, Euronychodon and Paronychodon.