A partial skeleton of “Balaur bondoc”, which means “stocky dragon” and is a new genus of the family Dromaeosauridae, was found in Romania in September 2009, approximately 1.5 miles north of Sebes along the Sebes River. It was discovered by the geologist and paleontologist (one who studies dinosaurs) Matyas Vremir of the Transylvanian Museum Society of Cluj Napoca, who then sent the remains to Zoltan Csiki of the University of Bucharest for analysis. The particular dinosaur was found in an area that, roughly 70 million years ago, was mostly scattered islands, which most likely resulted in its most signature features. In its isolated evolution, Balaur developed not one, but two large sickle-like talons on each foot that could be hyper-extended, unlike its inland relatives. Over 20 other characteristics unique to the Balaur genus have been described, including short, stocky feet and legs, large muscle attachment areas on the pelvis, fused bones, and a small, possibly vestigial (small, nonfunctioning) third digit on the hand. The ‘island effect’, usually resulting in a giant or pygmy size, is rather evident in the Balaur genus, not in great or tiny stature, but its highly specialized features.
Balaur bondoc may have been one of the largest and most dangerous predators in its environment, but its body was still only about 1.8 meters (6-7 feet) in length, about the same size as the Velociraptor, according to scientists.
“Balaur is a new breed of predatory dinosaur,” says Stephen Brusatte, a graduate student at Columbia University who is affiliated with the Museum. “Its anatomy shows that it probably hunted in a different way than its less stocky relatives. Compared to Velociraptor, Balaur was probably more of a kick boxer than a sprinter, and it might have been able to take down larger animals than itself, as many carnivores do today.”
While Balaur gained worldwide popularity just recently, the first small bones belonging to the genus were found in 1997 in Romania by Dan Grigorescu. They were so unusual that scientists could not combine them correctly and mistook them for the bones of an Oviraptor.
Dr. Sues suggests that Balaur’s continental ancestors island-hopped their way to what is now Romania during periods when climate conditions led to lower sea levels, and were stranded there when sea levels returned, leading to their isolation.