“Fieldwork, May to July,
2004, on the island of
Hvar, Croatia “
National Geographic, CRE Grant & NSERC
University of Alberta
Michael Caldwell, Arjun Keswani, Murray Gingras, Cajus Diedrich, Alex
Dutchak, Timon Bullard
Croatian National Museum of Natural History
Jakov Radovcic, Katarina Krismanjic
The island of Hvar is part of the 100 km
Dalmatian Island chain along the Hungary
Adriatic Coast of Croatia. Italy Slovenia Zagreb
forms the western shore of the Karlovac Croatia Osijek
Adriatic. Hundreds of years ago,
during quarry operations to collect
platy limestones for roofing tiles,
numerous fossils of fishes and
marine lizards, all dating from the
earliest part of the Upper Cretaceous
were collected. Many of these ended
up in the collections of wealthy Vis
people and churches. Today, Lastovo Mijet
most of these specimens are in 80
84 88 92 96
museum collections in Vienna,
London, Trieste, Zagreb, and
Munich. In the summer of 2004
we returned to Hvar to prospect for
ig Nicola’s Neolithic
r ad quarry site
more specimens - on of the first such Starigrad Ba y
scientific projects in 100 years.
View of the northern peninsula from the highlands to the east. The village of Vrboska is
to the right of center. The highland to the north (top right in the photo) is the Island of
The village of Vrboska as seen the front step of our pension. The roofs of the buildings are tiled
now, but historically they were covered in fossil-bearing platy limestones.
Hvar is covered in beautiful fields of lavender.
We walked the coastline of the entire northern peninsula, measuring the rocks, observing and
collecting fossils, and developed a detailed understanding of the ancient environments in which
these sediments were deposited.
In blistering 40C+ heat, we opened a large quarry in the anticline above Vrboska. Amidst relic
from ancient Greece, Rome, and the Venetian Empire, to name but a few, we went hunting for
An example of an old stone house with its stone roof, nestled in the ancient vineyards that cover
the lowlands on Hvar. People have been living here for thousands of years…the evidence is everywhere.
In the background you can see large stone fences…the rock was moved into fences in order to expose the
thin red soil, or terra rossa that is a central soil characteristic arising from the erosion of limestones.
Tracks and traces
Thalassinoides sp. (a compressed shrimp burrow)
We also discovered and excavated a dinosaur trackway. This
discovery made world headlines as it was the first known
dinosaur trackway from the Dalmatian Coast of Croatia.
Some of the invertebrates
Rudist bivalves and other small oysters (rudists were large bivalved molluscs with asymmetrical
valves, unlike a clam. Rudists had one valve shaped like a large ice cream cone, while the
other was a small cap that fitted over the top of the cone.)
Colonies of rudists in life position (you are looking down the top of the cone)
A diverse fauna of teleosts and pycnodonts
is known from Hvar.
Discovering new specimens
of these animals was the goal
of this project
Publication from Caldwell Lab:
Dutchak, A., and Caldwell, M.W 2006. Redescription of Aigialosaurus dalmaticus
Kramberger, 1892, a Cenomanian mosasauroid lizards from Hvar Island, Croatia.
Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences, 43:1821-1834.
Manuscript in Preparation:
Alex R. Dutchak and Michael W. Caldwell, A redescription of Aigialosaurus (=Opetiosaurus) bucchichi
(Kornhuber, 1901) (Squamata: Aigialosauridae) with comments on Mosasauroid Systematics
Publication from Caldwell Lab:
Pierce, S., and Caldwell, M.W. 2004. Redescription and phylogenetic position
of the Adriatic(Upper Cretaceous; Cenomanian) dolichosaur, Pontosaurus lesinensis
(Kornhuber, 1873). Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, 24:376-389.
Prior to our arrival in Zagreb, a new specimen of Pontosaurus was
donated to the museum. We are currently describing this new and
We measured and described
rock units from ancient
environments similar to
modern back reef lagoons
and intertidal flats
Open Ocean Patch Reefs Lagoon
This schematic nicely illustrates a similar sort of environment as the
one we have interpreted from the sediments of Hvar. The fossil reptiles
are found in sediments deposited in the lagoonal setting away from the
Evironments like this can be restricted and hypersaline on a rather frequent basis.
Animals that die in such hostile environs and often remain unscavenged. If fossilized,
they are often beautifully preserved.