Croatian Jurassic Park

13 July 2022.

Written by Matija Čaić

If human race had lived in the dinosaur age, about 65 to 200 million years ago, today we would certainly have reptiles covered with shells for pets, instead of hairy and soft mammals. Because the dinosaurs came in many and varied forms and colors from the great brontosaur to the small parvicursor and they were the undisputed rulers of the world. And besides that, they were so cute.

Small dinosaurs

These dire lizards, which is a direct translation of their Latin name, also lived in the territory of Croatia, and in Istria is one of the richest sites of their remains.

One interesting law of nature says that living beings in isolated spaces in a relatively short period of time become much smaller than their ancestors. Thus, the Istrian dinosaurs who lived on the Brijuni Islands were relatively small. At least, according to their footprints, and there are more than 200 of them . The length ranges between 15 and 30 centimeters, which means that the dinosaurs had the number of shoes between 25 and 50.


Prints were discovered in 1925 by Austrian industrialist Bachofen – Echt. The term “Jurassic Park” is here actually misused since the Istrian dinosaurs lived maximum 145 million years ago, placing them in a slightly younger cretaceous period. So, the more correct term would be a “cretaceous park”.

Dinosaur footprints are actually very rare. In order to be preserved for millions of years it is necessary to be left in soft material, which then has to be covered with a lot harder one. Knowing this, this site becomes even more valuable.

croatia, travel, tourism, adriatic, mediterranean, istria, dinosaurs, footprint
The most beautiful footprint of Brijuni lizards. Source:

The most beautiful three-fingered print most commonly seen in the photographs and which has become a trademark of the Brijuni lizards, is left by some of the carnivores from the group of theropods, which are the ancestors of today’s birds.


The prints were found on both Brijuni islands.

Those on the Cape Pogledalo / Barban belong to the carnivores whose length is estimated at 8 meters.

On the Cape Ploče lived small and agile carnivores from the group of coelosaurs up to 4 meters long. They are distant relatives of a horiffic tyrannosaurus.

The prints on the Cape Kamnik / Plješivac belong to larger herbivores from the group of ornithopod dinosaurs. They had legs similar to birds and in the cretaceous period were the most developed group of herbivores because of the digestive system never seen before in reptiles. This system was as complex as the one in today’s cows.

The biggest dinosaurs lived in the Trieste / Debela Glava area. There lived herbivores up to 15 meters long from the group of sauropods. Sauropods is the most famous group of dinosaurs. Well known brachiosaur and the largest ever seizmosaur, or lizard-earthquake, belong in this group.

And now something more concrete

Talking about Brachiosaurus, they did not leave only footprints in Istria, but also the bones. In 1992, diver Dario Boscarolli found in the sea next to Bale a real graveyard of dinosaurs that were probably destroyed by some major catastrophe. It is difficult to find another explanation for so many corpses in one place.

So far more than 200 bones have been extracted, and it is assumed that there are many more that are just waiting to be discovered.

This is one of the rare, if not the only, undersea sites of dinosaur remains in the world, and for this reason and because of its abundance, it is included in the world list of paleontological sites.

It is assumed that the brachiosaur which was discovered here has been over 25 meters long and weighted nearly 30 tons.

The bones are between 150 and 200 million years old and can be seen in the Bale museum.

Background image: Wikimedia Commons, HombreDHojalata

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