The Dilophosaurus was a flesh eating dinosaur that lived in North America and China about 193 million years ago, during the Sinemurian stage of the Early Jurassic Period.
Its name refers to twin crests that adorn the skull of this ancient reptile; “two crested lizard”; derived from the Greek word di (two) lophos (crest) and sauros, lizard.
It was a relatively small meat-eater but very powerful and bipedal, able to run quickly on powerful hind legs. There is no strong theory as to why the Dilophosaurus had such distinctive double crests, but suggestions range from mating displays to ornamental affect, or perhaps they changed color in a display of aggression or intimidation.
It stood quite low, about 8 foot high, but was 6 metres long, easily dwarfing a human, with dexterous forelimbs with flexible claws and an opposable thumb with which to grasp prey. It was possibly a scavenger, fossils showing a very weak attachment of the main upper jaw bones to the tip of the upper jaw. This connection is so weak that the teeth, although very sharp, were unable to stab the prey, instead using a plucking motion.
This could be evidence that it plucked the meat from bodies ravaged by a larger predator, or that had died from old age or disease. It would not have been able to use its teeth to kill, and would have been forced to use its front claws and feet.
Fossils have been found together in a group of three, leading anthropologists to suggest they were a group animal that probably moved around together in small herds. They had the ability to cover a lot of territory moving quickly as a pack.
Dilophosaurus was misnamed as Megalosaurus before new fossil evidence of crests were found nearly 50 years later, finally putting this mistake to remedy. The Megalosaurus is of the family of Carnosaurs (Allosaurus, carnotaurus, Tyrannosaurus), and although the Dilophosaurus is similar in some ways it truly comes from a group a little more varied and rarer, known as Ceratorsaurs; which include more dinosaur types with thin, bony crests on the head. It also shares the same light, bird-like bone structures of the Colelurosaurs, and indeed, it left bird-like footprints on land, some only impressions of the claw-tips. With a leg-length of 1.65m, its stride would have been an impressive 2.13 metres.
IN THE MOVIES
It has a little fame and fortune in being one of the dinosaurs brought back to life in Jurassic Park, where it featured as a small, frill-necked lizard that spits poison into a character’s face. It is actually rather large and despite having rather exciting looking crests, does not in fact have some kind of inflating neck flaps that popped up when excited.
Dilophosaurus bite may have been poisonous, somewhat like a Komodo dragon with its toxic rotting meat teeth; but whether this dinosaur, or any other, possessed the capacity for spitting-cobra tendencies, we may never know.
DID YOU KNOW?
The Dilophosaurus was featured as one of the dinosaurs in the movie “Jurrasic Park.” In the movie the Dilophosaurus erected it’s crest for a dramatic effect of attacking the prey but this was not realistic (see the photos above where no crest is visible).
Like humans, the Dilophosaurus had an opposable thumb