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Transylvanian Dinosaurs

David B. Weishampel and Coralia-Maria Jianu

Publication Year: 2011

At the end of the time of the dinosaurs, Transylvania was an island in what was to become southeastern Europe, formed by the forces of plate tectonics. The island's limited resources affected the size and life histories of the animals, resulting in a local dwarfism. For example, sauropods found on the island measured only six meters long, while their cousins elsewhere grew up to five times larger. Here, David B. Weishampel and Coralia-Maria Jianu present unique evolutionary interpretations of this phenomenon. The authors bring together the latest information on the fauna, flora, geology, and paleogeography of the region, casting these ancient reptiles in their phylogenetic, paleoecological, and evolutionary contexts. What the authors find is that Transylvanian dinosaurs experienced a range of unpredictable successes as they evolved. Woven throughout the detailed history and science of these diminutive dinosaurs is the fascinating story of the man who first discovered them, the mysterious twentieth-century paleontologist, Franz Baron Nopcsa. Hailed by some as the father of paleobiology, it was Nopcsa alone that understood the importance of the dinosaur discoveries in Transylvania. Nopcsa’s name is synonymous with Transylvanian dinosaurs; their story cannot be told without recounting his. Transylvanian Dinosaurs strikes an engaging balance between biography and scientific treatise and is sure to capture the imagination of professional paleontologists and amateur dinophiles alike.

Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xiv

Books like this do not spring fully formed from the forehead of Jove.Rather, they are most often inspired by the work of others, coming together from fragments of old and new ideas that careen from right brain to left, scrambling and unscrambling through international mail systems and e-mails. Parts die and parts survive as the goals of the book become...

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CHAPTER 1. Bringing It All Back Home

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pp. 1-14

Morning comes early when you’re in the field. No matter where you are—Mongolia, Montana, or Madagascar—it’s bound to be impossibly hot later in the day. So it’s better to be looking for fossils when it’s reasonably comfortable to be walking around or digging in the rocks to extract dinosaur bones and teeth. It’s 6:30 a.m. and we’re

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CHAPTER 2. Dinosauria of Transylvania

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pp. 15-58

At the time of Franz Nopcsa’s death in 1933, the Hateg fauna was thought to include five dinosaurs, a bird, a crocodile, a turtle, and a pterosaur. Unfortunately, work in Transylvania went fallow after the First World War, when the defeated Austro-Hungarian Empire ceded Transylvania to Romania....

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CHAPTER 3. Pterosaurs, Crocs, and Mammals, Oh My

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pp. 59-83

The array of Late Cretaceous creatures from Transylvania goes well beyond its dinosaurs. Although they were the most obvious animals in the Ha¸teg landscape, Zalmoxes, Struthiosaurus, Magyarosaurus, Telmatosaurus, and others were among the rarest members of the fauna.Just as every ecosystem has its myriad players—primary producers, herbivores, predators, decomposers, and many more, so we must look for...

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CHAPTER 4. Living on the Edge

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pp. 84-112

What was the Transylvanian region like some 70 million years ago,during the Maastrichtian age of the Late Cretaceous? To Franzv Baron Nopcsa, the prehistoric landscape had a distinctly different appearance than it does in modern times. Here is how he might have imagined it, with a bit of a current paleogeographic spin. Seen from high in the air, the Transylvanian region is an island—a speck among other specks—that, together...

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CHAPTER 5. Little Giants and Big Dwarfs

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pp. 113-146

The earliest recognition of fossil bones, whether they were dinosaurian, mammalian, or some other vertebrate, cannot be recounted,but it is clear that they were given serious attention at least since antiquity. Seized on as being the remains of giants, so began the link between fossils and what might be called gigantology, a fascination with large size that continues to this day.1 It was the bones of large fossil mammals, especially of extinct...

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CHAPTER 6. Living Fossils and Their Ghosts: Being a Short Interlude on Coelacanths and Transylvanian Ornithopods

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pp. 147-162

For evolutionary biologists of all sorts, 23 December 1938 was a very important day. It was then that a trawler called the Nerine put into port at the town of East London, located about 850 km to the east of Cape Town, South Africa. The skipper, Captain Hendrick Goosen, made a living fishing the nearby coastal waters of the Indian Ocean. Having made friends with Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer, the curator...

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CHAPTER 7. Transylvania, the Land of Contingency

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pp. 163-193

You’re standing at one of those classic 1970s pinball machines—no doubt the ‘‘Bally 4 Million BC,’’ in keeping with our paleontological theme—and you pull back the plunger and release the ball on its initial trajectory. As the silver projectile cavorts with the zap and ding of the bumpers and the slap of the paddles, the score mounts. Eventually, the game ends when the ball drops into the machine...

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CHAPTER 8. Alice and the End

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pp. 194-202

Ancient Transylvania now makes sense as a land of contingency, a region where any number of unpredictable events provided the raw material for what would become the history of members of its dinosaurian fauna. Emerging from a synthesis of cladistics, paleogeography, heterochrony, and life-history strategies, the significance of the Transylvanian dinosaurs comes from what...


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pp. 203-220


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pp. 221-240


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pp. 241-290


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pp. 291-301

Color plates

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pp. 130-326

E-ISBN-13: 9781421403502
E-ISBN-10: 1421403501
Print-ISBN-13: 9781421400273
Print-ISBN-10: 1421400278

Page Count: 328
Illustrations: 55 b&w illus., 41 line drawings, 8 color plates
Publication Year: 2011