(After the Dacian deity Zalmoxis).
Named By: David Weishampel, Coralia-Maria Jianu, Zoltan Csiki & David Bruce Norman - 2003.
Classification: Chordata, Reptilia, Dinosauria, Ornithischia, Ornithopoda, Rhabdodontidae.
Species: Z. robustus (type), Z. shqiperorum.
Size: 2 to 3 meters long for Z. robustus, 4 to 4.5 meters long for Z. shqiperorum.
Known locations: Romania, Transylvania - S‚npetru Formation.
Time period: Maastrichtian of the Cretaceous.
Fossil representation: Hundreds of bones have been recovered allowing for reconstruction of the post cranial skeleton with the exception of the outer extremities such as the hands, feet and tail. Skull known from partial remains.
was discovered when fossils that had been assigned to the genus
as R. robustus
(originally robustum) were discovered to
have different distinguishing features. This was actually the second
time that the material had been re-named as initially it was known as a
species of Mochlodon.
Today Zalmoxes is described as an iguanodontid
ornithopod dinosaur that sits within the family Rhabdodontidae. This
group was created in 2003, and aside from Rhabdodon
is also thought
to be the rightful home of other well-known dinosaurs like
Entries for Zalmoxes regarding its size can vary greatly, but what needs to be remembered is that the size estimate actually depends on the specific species of the Z. shqiperorum is the largest at up to four and half meters long, and this is the one that is often quoted as an absolute. However it is the smaller Z. robustus that is up to three meters long that is more interesting as it seems that species evolved as a product of insular dwarfism. This is a valid theory as much of Europe resembled an island chain, one of the most famous examples being Hateg island that would go on to form a large portion of modern day Romania.
Insular dwarfism is a simple theory that states that as food resources in a given area are limited by the available land mass, the animals that live there grow smaller with successive generations so as to not use up the available food. This means that herbivores grow small so that they do not need to eat so many plants, and the carnivores that prey upon them grow smaller so that they can better survive on eating smaller animals. Those that make the transition to smaller body sizes survive to continue the species, those that do not go extinct.
Zalmoxes itself was not the only dinosaur to accomplish this, as the hadrosauird Telmatosaurus, as well as the titanosaur Magyarosaurus both attained maximum sizes that were much smaller than similar and related dinosaurs that were living in mainland areas. Carnivores also evolved however as indicated by the presence of the dromaeosaurid Balaur.
- Osteology and phylogeny of Zalmoxes (n. g.), an unusual euornithopod dinosaur from the latest Cretaceous of Romania. - Journal of Systematic Palaeontology 1(2):65-123. - D. B. Weishampel, C.-M. Jianu, Z. Csiki & D. B. Norman - 2003.