Any mention of dinosaurs usually invokes images of huge creatures. However, Paleontologists now believe that there was a much smaller species of dinosaurs - the size of modern-day pets, that roamed the earth during the Cretaceous Period, 65 million years ago.
The notion of dwarf or pygmy dinosaurs was first suggested over a century ago, by fossil hunter Baron Franz Nopcsa, who lived in Hateg in modern-day Romania. But most Paleontologists dismissed the idea believing that the fossils were those of juvenile dinosaurs.
However, a new study conducted by Professor Michael Benton from the University of Bristol seems to prove that Hateg may indeed have been home to at least three species of dwarf dinosaurs.
Professor Benton's conclusions are based on new testing methods that revealed that the fossils discovered were indeed those of fully-grown dinosaurs.
Among the fossils found is that of a four-legged herbivore called Magyarosaurus. At just 16-18 feet in length and 8 tons in weight, it was tiny compared to its relatives, Argentinosaurus and Paralititan, which grew up to 100 feet and weighed as much as 80 tons!
Another species identified was a 13 ft. long hadrosaurid (duck-billed) dinosaur called Telmatosaurus, which the scientists believe is related to the Maisaura dinosaur, that grew up to 30 ft. in length.
A third dwarf species, a two-legged herbivore, called Zalmoxes, which weighed less than a quarter ton is believed to have evolved from the 26-ft long Tenontosaurus, that weighed as much as two tons!
While nobody knows for sure why this particular area was home to these tiny dinosaurs, Professor Benton has a theory. During the Cretaceous Period, a large portion of Europe was under water, and Hateg, which today is a landlocked area in central Romania, used to be 30,000 square mile island.
The Professor believes that some of the dinosaurs got trapped on the island and given the limited food resources, adapted and evolved into a much smaller species.
If true, the disoveries changes the entire perception of dinosaurs, whose very name means 'Great Lizard' in the Greek language. Maybe they will now be known as 'Microsaurs'?
sources: telegraph.co.uk, physorg.com