Magyarosaurus

(MA-ghee-ahr-oh-SORE-us)

Name means: Magyar Reptile

 

Species: dacus

Range: Late Cretaceous (Maastrichtian, 72-65 MYA) from Romania

Size estimate: 18-20 ft length, 1-1.2 tons

Discovery: Friedrich von Huene, 1932

Classification: dinosauria, saurischia, sauropoda, titanosauria, nemegtosauridae

 

Sauropods have gained a reputation as the largest animals to walk the land, but Magyarosaurus is a definite exception to that rule. It may be the smallest adult sauropod known to science. Most sauropods may have reached such large sizes because of various benefits that go along with gigantism. Big animals don't change body temperature easily. Big legs use less energy for movement. Few predators will attack things larger than they are. Giant body size does require a lot of resources, though. On an island, size provides fewer advantages compared with the costs. As an island-dwelling sauropod, Magyarosaurus developed smaller body size to cope with those costs. During the Cretaceous, a shallow sea covered Eastern Europe. Transylvania became an archipelago. As sea levels fluctuated, sauropods moved into new areas and became isolated. Such a situation often leads to the development of new species. While scientists currently recognize one species of Magyarosaurus, future studies and discoveries may reveal several in a small area.

 

Eggs discovered in Romania may belong to Magyarosaurus or a closely related species. The eggs look much like those known from mainland areas, but come in smaller clutches. Laying fewer eggs may represent another adaptation to an island habitat. These eggs also preserve fine details like microscopic scales and millimeter-long plates. Though such plates may have served as armor, one study suggests they stored minerals. During times when resources were scarce, Magyarosaurus may have slowly reabsorbed them.

 

Sauropod skeletons rarely include skulls. No skull fossils for Magyarosaurus are currently known. This depiction of Magyarosaurus includes a skull based on the average titanosaur. A skull design like this would work well for a generalized diet. As an island-dweller, Magyarosaurus would benefit from a diet made up of a variety of plants. However, Magyarosaurus belongs to the Nemegtosaur family. Its cousin Nemegtosaurus had a skull that looked more like the low-browsing diplodocid family. Future work may prove Magyarosaurus bore a more horse-shaped head like Nemegtosaurus.

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