The Balaur was a carnivorous theropod dinosaur that lived during the Maastrichtian stage of the Upper Cretaceous period, roughly 70 million years ago. It was known for its stocky build and musculature, which is where the name Balaur is derived from.

Key Facts

Balaur pronunciationBaˈla-ur
What does Balaur mean?Stocky dragon
Dinosaur typeTheropod
On the menuCarnivore
Length6–8.2 ft (1.8–2.5 m)
Height2.6 ft (0.8m)
Weight44lb (20kg)
Life expectancyUnknown
Legs used to get aroundBipedal
Estimated top speedUnknown
When they livedUpper Cretaceous, 70 million years ago
Where they have been found?Romania

When & Where

Balaur bondoc was one of many small dinosaurs that lived in the forests and plains of what is now Romania. It was part of the fauna of the Puches Formation, which was home to other dinosaurs including Allosaurus, Iguanodon, and Struthiosaurus.

The first Balaur remains were uncovered in 1997 by Romanian paleontologist Dan Grigorescu along the Sebeș River and Densuș-Ciula Formation in the Hațeg Basin. The morphology of these recovered upper limb bones was so unusual that scientists were unable to reconstruct it correctly.

Years later, in 2009, geologist Mátyás Vremir discovered a partial Balaur skeleton along the Sebeș river, which provided more information on the Balaur.

Balaur bondoc was named in 2010 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by Zoltan Csiki. The name is derived from the Romanian word “balaur” meaning dragon. The specific name “bondoc” means “stocky” in Romanian.

Size & Weight

The Balaur was a stocky dinosaur that stood about 3ft tall and weighed a little over 40lb. It was about the same size as a Velociraptor.

It had robust arms and a very distinct pubic bone that curved outward. Another notable feature was its strangely fused feet with large sickle-shaped toe claws. Each of these claws had three fingers, but the third finger was nonfunctional with a rudimentary phalanx bone.

These sickle-shaped claws may have been used for killing prey.

Mobility & Diet

Due to a lack of skull or tooth remains, scientists are not sure how or what it ate. Its atrophied arms and long, sickle-shaped claws suggest that it may have been a carnivorous ambush predator that used its claws to slice prey.

The Balaur was bipedal and had a long tail that was held horizontally to help with balance. It had a large gut, which may have been an adaptation to help digest its prey.

The bones of its arms are similar to those of “Velociraptor” and “Troodon“, but differ in the placement of their muscles. These differences suggest that the Balaur was not built for speed, but for power and strength.

Interesting Points

  • Most of the abnormal morphologies of the Balaur are thought to be a result of the island syndrome.
  • The island syndrome is a theory that states that when organisms are isolated on an island, they will evolve adaptations to the environment. These adaptations may be in the form of smaller body sizes, smaller brains, etc.
  • The Balaur appears to have been an example of island dwarfism, which is defined as an evolutionary process in which the size of organisms decreases over generations.
  • This effect was likely exaggerated due to the Balaur being confined to an island. This was most likely exacerbated by a lack of competition.
  • On the island, the Balaur’s arms would have been almost useless. Because of this, its body would have adapted by gradually losing its arms and evolving larger claws for catching prey.

Featured Image Credit: Nobu Tamura, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons