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Dilophosaurus

Our young Dilophosaurus is ready and waiting to say hello at the Museum

Please note that our Dilophosaurus has only one crest. This is an error by the sculptor. We’re sorry!

Fast Facts

NAME: Dilophosaurus

Meaning: Weatherill’s two-crested lizard

Pronounced: dy-LOHF-o-SOR-əs

Described by: Samuel Paul Welles in 1954 as Megalosaurus weatherilli

DIET: Carnivore

Length: 23 ft (7 m)

Height: 4.5 ft (1.36 m) at hip

Weight: 880 lbs (400 kg)

WHEN IT LIVED: Early Jurrasic 201.3 to 182.7 million years ago

WHERE IT LIVED: North America. Fossils have been found in Arizona. The same geologic formation also occurs in New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado.

CLASSIFICATION: There is one species known, Dilophosaurus weatherilli


Dilophosaurus: an Arizona Dinosaur

By Dana Slaughter

Dilophosaurus was first discovered in 1940 by Navajo Jesse Williams near Tuba City, Arizona. The name means, “double crested lizard”. Paleontologists from the University of California, Berkeley were working in the area in 1942 and heard news that a possible dinosaur had been found earlier in the area and asked for help locating where the discovery had been made. Jessie Williams escorted a small group to the site and three skeletons were partly exposed and a quick ten-day excavation produced two skeletons.

Originally the striking double crest on the skull was not recognized and was thought to be cheekbones that had been crushed and moved out of position. The dinosaur was proposed as the new species Megalosaurus wetherilli in 1954. It was not until 1964 that the skull feature was recognized as a crest, when a new and better skeleton was unearthed during an expedition to determine the age of the rock formation. Finally, Dilophosaurus wetherilli was described and named in 1970.

The bones are found in the Kayenta Formation and are about 193 million years old. The male dilophosaurus was about 23 feet long and weighed about 880 pounds. Despite its popular depiction in the movie Jurassic Park, there is no evidence to suggest that the dinosaur could spit venom or sported a neck frill.

The model in the museum is smaller and has only one crest.  Maybe the builders did not know it had two?

A “wild” Dilophosaurus with two crests.


Dilophosaurus: Unraveling the Mysteries of a Jurassic Predator

Introduction

Dilophosaurus is a captivating dinosaur that lived during the Jurassic period, approximately 193 to 183 million years ago. This fascinating theropod has intrigued paleontologists and biologists alike due to its unique features and the enigmatic nature of its discovery.

Discovery and Taxonomy

The first remains of Dilophosaurus were discovered in the Kayenta Formation of Arizona in the early 1940s. The type species, Dilophosaurus wetherilli, was officially described by American paleontologist Samuel P. Welles in 1954. The name “Dilophosaurus” is derived from the Greek words “di” (meaning two), “lophos” (meaning crest), and “sauros” (meaning lizard), referring to the two crests that adorn its skull.

Our understanding of Dilophosaurus has changed over time. Early interpretations of the dinosaur included features that are now known to belong to other dinosaurs or juveniles of the species. Through further research and discoveries, our knowledge of Dilophosaurus has become more refined.

Anatomy and Morphology

Dilophosaurus was a medium-sized theropod dinosaur, estimated to have reached lengths of around 20 feet and weighed up to 1,000 pounds. Its most distinctive features were the pair of crests on its skull, which ran from the tip of its nose to the back of its head. These crests likely had a display function, possibly for communication or mate attraction, and were probably not as developed in juveniles.

Its jaws were equipped with sharp, serrated teeth that indicate it was a carnivorous predator, likely feeding on small to medium-sized vertebrates. The elongated neck and slender limbs suggest that Dilophosaurus was an agile hunter, capable of pursuing and capturing its prey with precision.

Behavior and Diet

Understanding the behavior of dinosaurs like Dilophosaurus is a challenging task, as it requires a combination of anatomical analysis, fossil evidence, and comparisons with living animals. Although no direct evidence of its behavior exists, scientists can make informed speculations based on its anatomy and the behavior of modern relatives.

As a theropod, Dilophosaurus was a bipedal predator, using its powerful hind limbs for locomotion and its forelimbs, armed with sharp claws, for grasping and potentially subduing its prey. Its slender body and long tail may have contributed to its agility during hunting.

The diet of Dilophosaurus likely included smaller dinosaurs, reptiles, and possibly insects. Its teeth, skull structure, and overall size suggest it was not a top predator but occupied a niche as a mid-level carnivore in its ecosystem.

Paleoenvironment and Paleoecology

Dilophosaurus inhabited the ancient landscapes of the early Jurassic period, which were vastly different from those of today. The Kayenta Formation, where its fossils were discovered, represents a semi-arid environment with seasonal rainfall and rivers. The flora of the region likely consisted of ferns, cycads, and conifers.

The Kayenta Formation preserved a diverse assemblage of dinosaurs, including other theropods, ornithischians, and early sauropodomorphs. The coexistence of these various dinosaur groups offers valuable insights into the complexity of the early Jurassic ecosystems and their predator-prey dynamics.

Cultural Significance and Pop Culture

Dilophosaurus gained unexpected fame and notoriety in popular culture, thanks in part to the film “Jurassic Park.” However, it is essential to differentiate between the very fictional portrayal in the movie and the scientific understanding of the real Dilophosaurus.

In “Jurassic Park,” the Dilophosaurus is depicted as a small venomous, frilled dinosaur that spits venom at its victims. While this portrayal adds an exciting element to the film, it is not supported by any fossil evidence or scientific research. The real Dilophosaurus was a formidable predator but lacked the frill and venomous capabilities attributed to its fictional counterpart.

Conclusion

Dilophosaurus remains a compelling subject of study in paleontology and biology. Despite the challenges posed by incomplete fossil evidence and the passage of millions of years, and the strong addition of completely fictional depictions, diligent research has shed light on the unique features, behavior, and ecology of this early Jurassic predator.

As our understanding of the ancient world continues to evolve, Dilophosaurus provides a glimpse into the diverse and complex ecosystems that once thrived in Arizona. By combining rigorous scientific inquiry with careful speculation, paleontologists strive to piece together the life and times of Dilophosaurus, a remarkable dinosaur that continues to inspire curiosity and wonder among scientists and enthusiasts alike.