Monday, February 15, 2010


In 1895, Hungarian baron Franz Nopcsa claimed to have discovered the bones of miniature dinosaurs on an island that was part of his family's estate in Transylvania. The world called him a dirty liar. Partly because no one had ever discovered dwarf dinosaurs before, but also because Hungarian barons are notoriously untrustworthy. Their fortunes almost always come from deceptive email schemes. But it turns out Nopcsa was telling the truth! A team of paleobiologists have discovered several species of dwarf dinosaurs on Hateg Island in Romania. Now, we're not talking dinosaurs so small they could fit in the palm of your hand or turn into a collectible trading sensation among Japanese schoolchildren. We're talking 16-19 foot versions of species similar to the Argentinosaurus, which grew up to 82 feet long in other environments. It's believed that this is more evidence for the "island theory" of evolution, which posits that island environments tend to drive small creatures to evolve larger and large creatures to evolve smaller. There's no concrete explanation for why this would be, but it's further supported by the fact that when the Skipper finally made it back to shore, he was at least three feet shorter than Gilligan. More details here.