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a plant-eating dwarf hardosaurid dinosaur from the Late Cretaceous of Romania.
Pronunciation: tel-MAT-o-SOR-us
Meaning: Swamp lizard
Author/s: Nopcsa (1900)
Synonyms: See etymology
First Discovery: Hunedoara, Romania
Chart Position: 58

Telmatosaurus transsylvanicus

Transylvania gets some bad press being, as it is, full of vampires, werewolves and the like. Of course, it isn't full of real vampires and werewolves, only in books and movies. But a particular part of it, previously an island known as Hațeg (pronounced "Hatzeg"), did have its fair share of weird critters.

Telmatosaurus couldn't suck your blood even if it wanted to. It lacked fangs... and probably lips... and was a vegetarian, but it did manage to dodge all advanced hadrosaurid upgrades by hiding in the swampy woodlands of a European archipelago during the Late Cretaceous and yet still managed to survive right up to the K-Pg extinction. It was also fully grown but only a fraction the size of its mainland relatives which prompted Nopcsa, who described its remains, to come up with a theory he called "insular dwarfism"; an island's inhabitants would become miniaturized over generations to minimize pressure on limited resources.

Size aside, Telmatosaurus followed the same basic body plan of other hadrosaurs such as Maiasaura; primarily bipedal but adopting a quadrupedal stance to feed and rest, a long tail stiffened with interwoven bony struts for counterbalance, a somewhat long and horse-like skull with a narrow snout which is toothless at the tip, beaked, and lacking flambuoyant decor such as a crest. Both upper and lower jaws were packed with hundreds of teeth arranged in batteries which, combined with well developed jaw muscles, would have made light work of the toughest vegetation.

Nests discovered near the village of Tustea in the late 1980s contain what appear to be hadrosaurid embryos or hatchlings (possibly Telmatosaurus) alongside probable titanosaurian sauropod eggs (possibly Magyarosaurus). It's unlikely that different species shared the same nesting site, so perhaps flash flooding had swept sauropod eggs into a hadrosaurid site, or hadrosaurid hatchlings into a sauropod site, or perhaps the hatchlings and the eggs have been misidentified and they actually represent the same species. Palaeontologists are reluctant to commit to identifying the owner of said eggs until identifiable embryos are discovered inside of them rather than alongside them, and given the past controversies caused by mistaken identity (think Oviraptor) who can blame them?
Telmatosaurus is derived from the Greek "telmat" (swamp, marsh) and "sauros" (lizard) because of its presumed swamp-dwelling habits.
The species epithet, transsylvanicus, refers to its discovery in Transylvania.
Synonyms and previous names
Nopcsa initially named this dinosaur Limnosaurus but that name had already been assigned to a crocodilian by Othniel Charles Marsh in 1872. It was renamed Telmatosaurus in 1903 unbeknownst to Barnum Brown who used the same remains to anchor Hecatasaurus in 1910. In 1915 Nopcsa moved Telmatosaurus to Orthomerus (as Orthomerus transsylvanicus) on the strength of a matching femur but the name was revived in the 1980's when Orthomerus was tagged undiognostic.
telmatosaurus-skull The first fossil of Telmatosaurus was a partial skull (BMNH B.3386) discovered by peasants in what turned out to be the Sânpetru Formation, near the village of Sânpetru (then Szentpéterfalva), Hunedoara (then Hunyad) in the Haţeg Basin of Romania, which was presented to Ilona Nopcsa - the daughter of their master. This inspired her brother, Farenc (Franz) Nopcsa to take up a career in paleontology because, after showing it to a rather unhelpful university professor, he was told to study it himself! So he did.
Nopcsa didn't actually nominate this skull as the Telmatosaurus holotype, but when Weishampel said he had in 1993 he inadvertently designated an official lectotype.
telmatosaurus-pathology In 2016, researchers from the Babeş-Bolyai University (Romania), the Northeast Ohio Medical University (USA), Johns Hopkins University (USA), the University of Bucharest (Romania) and the University of Southampton (UK) studied a weird growth on the lower jaw of a sub-adult Telmatosaurus using the Micro-CT scanning facilities of SCANCO Medical AG in Switzerland and identified it as an ameloblastoma. Ameloblastomas—tumourous, benign, non-cancerous growths—are known to afflict the jaws of humans and other mammals, and some modern reptiles too. And while fossil evidence suggests duck-billed dinosaurs, or hadrosaurs, are a sickly bunch, more prone to tumours than other dinosaurs, Telmatosaurus currently sports the only growth of this type in the entire fossil record.
Era: Mesozoic
Epoch: Late Cretaceous
Stage: Maastrichtian
Age range: 71-66 mya
Est. max. length: 5 meters
Est. max. hip height: ?
Est. max. weight: 450 Kg
Diet: Herbivore
Family Tree:
• Nopcsa F (1900) "Dinosaurierreste aus Siebenbürgen (Schädel von Limnosaurus transsylvanicus nov. gen. et spec.)". Denkschriften der Kaiserlichen Akademie der Wissenschaften. Mathematisch-Naturwissenschaftliche Classe 68: 555-591
• Nopcsa F (1903) "Telmatosaurus, new name for the dinosaur Limnosaurus". Geological Magazine, decade 4 10: 94-95.
• Brown B (1910) "The Cretaceous Ojo Alamo beds of New Mexico with description of the new dinosaur genus Kritosaurus". Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 28(24): 267-274. [Limnosaurus is renamed Hecatasaurus]
• Nopcsa F (1915) "Die dinosaurier der Siebenbürgischen landesteile Ungarns" (The dinosaurs of the Transylvanian province in Hungary). Mitteilungen aus dem Jahrbuche der Königlich-Ungarischen Geologischen Reichsanstalt 23: 1-24 [refers Telmatosaurus to Orthomerus]
• Benton MJ, Csiki Z, Grigorescu D, Sander PM, Stein K and Weishampel DB (2010) "Dinosaurs and the island rule: The dwarf dinosaurs of Haţeg Island". Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, Volume 293, Issues 3–4, Pages 438–454.
• Dalla Vecchia FM (2009) "Telmatosaurus and the other hadrosaurids of the Cretaceous European Archipelago". Natura Nascosta 39:1-18
• Weishampel DB and Jianu C-M (2011) "Transylvanian Dinosaurs".
• Naish, D. (2009) "Great Dinosaur Discoveries".
• Paul GS (2010) "The Princeton Field Guide to Dinosaurs". (Page 295).
• Dumbravă MD, Rothschild BM, Weishampel DB, Zoltán C-S, Răzvan AA, Acheson KA, Vlad A. Codrea VA (2016) "A dinosaurian facial deformity and the first occurrence of ameloblastoma in the fossil record". Scientific Reports, 2016; 6: 29271 DOI: 10.1038/srep29271.
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To cite this page:
Atkinson, L. "TELMATOSAURUS :: from DinoChecker's dinosaur archive".
›. Web access: 20th Feb 2018.