10 Crested Facts About Dilophosaurus

Let's take a closer look at Dilophosaurus, an off-kilter dino that Jurassic Park turned into a Mesozoic celebrity.

1. Sorry, Spielberg: Dilophosaurus Probably Wasn’t Poisonous...

Both the first Jurassic Park film and the Michael Crichton novel upon which it’s based feature toxin-spewing Dilophosaurus. However, at over 20 feet long, the real animal was an unusually-large predator for its time. As such, it would’ve likely been plenty scary without producing poisons, and there’s currently no strong evidence that can support this spurt of artistic license.

2. …And, it Also Lacked a Flashy Neck Frill.

The liberties keep on coming! One of these critters pounces on the film’s human villain after sprouting some bizarre, vibrating fins. Modern frilled lizards (Chlamydosaurus kingii) make themselves look bigger with similar structures, but, again, Dilophosaurus undoubtedly lacked them. Still, fans can at least credit Universal Pictures with getting the dinosaur’s bony head crests (mostly) right.

3. Dilophosaurus Was Discovered by a Native American.

In 1942, Navajo Jesse Williams led fossil-hunters Bill Rush, Ed Kott, and Sam Welles to the site where he’d happened upon the first known Dilophosaurus remains two years earlier.

4. Tantalizingly Dilophosaurus-Like Tracks Have Been Found in New England.

Dilophosaurus Footprint in Red Fleet Dinosaur Tracks Park, Utah, via

Although Dilophosaurus bones hail exclusively from the American southwest, a series of footprints belonging to a very similar dino were spotted in some Massachusetts and Connecticut rock of roughly the same geologic age during the 1840s. Since one can’t know for sure whether Dilophosaurus laid them or not, these tracks were given the scientific name Eubrontes giganteus by naturalist Edward Hitchcock (they’ve since been honored as Connecticut’s official state fossil).

5. Dilophosaurus Used to Be Called “Megalosaurus wetherilli.”

Picture a classification-based island of misfit toys. For many years, wildly-different meat-eating dinosaurs found themselves erroneously lumped together under the name “Megalosaurus.”

In 1824, England’s Megalosaurus bucklandii became the first dinosaur to be scientifically named, and, at first, Dilophosaurus wetherilli was misinterpreted as a new species of this genus. The latter animal, which actually bore very little resemblance to that British beastie, was given its own, brand-new genus in 1970.

6. Its Teeth Were Unevenly-Anchored.

Much ado has been made about Dilophosaurus’ dentition. Towards the back of its upper jaw, several teeth are weakly-rooted, but those closer to the front appear significantly firmer. As a whole, many scientists claim, Dilophosaurus chompers weren’t strong enough for taking down larger prey despite the carnivore’s size.

7. Dilophosaurus Apparently Sat Like a Bird.

Andrew Borgen, Flickr

Skeletons are great, but, in a way, dinosaur footprints give us something even more incredible: fossilized behavior. Dilophosaurus has been tentatively credited with leaving an exceptional set of tracks in present-day Utah. Clearly made by an animal at rest, these prints include both fore- and hindlimb impressions. While squatting down for a breather, their maker’s palms—in classical bird-like fashion—faced each other via an upright, “clapping” position.  

8. It Might Have Been a Fish-Eater.

Needle-like, puncturing teeth may have helped Dilophosaurus snag wriggly, prehistoric fish. In this scenario, its high-set nostrils would have poked above the water’s surface should the creature ever decide to do a heron impression.

9. Some Alleged Dilophosaurus Feather Imprints Were Likely Misidentified.

Can we add Dilophosaurus to the rapidly-growing list of feathered dinosaurs? Not yet. Footprints left by one individual included what appeared to be feathery impressions pressed into the surrounding mud. Unfortunately, many now hold that these markings were more likely a series of frayed grooves created by the dinosaur shifting its weight around in the soft sediment. What a letdown…

10. Dilophosaurus is One of the Few Jurassic Dinosaurs in the Original Jurassic Park.

Seven dinos appear in this 1993 sci-fi epic—and among these, only the long-necked Brachiosaurus and the slender Dilophosaurus actually lived during earth’s Jurassic period (201.3 – 145 million years ago). Tyrannosaurus, Triceratops, Velociraptor, Gallimimus, and Parasaurolophus all evolved amidst the subsequent Cretaceous period (though, granted, “Cretaceous Park” isn’t exactly the coolest title. You win this round, Hollywood!). 

Prehistoric Ticks Once Drank Dinosaur Blood, Fossil Evidence Shows

Ticks plagued the dinosaurs, too, as evidenced by a 99-million-year old parasite preserved inside a hunk of ancient amber. Entomologists who examined the Cretaceous period fossil noticed that the tiny arachnid was latched to a dinosaur feather—the first evidence that the bloodsuckers dined on dinos, according to The New York Times. These findings were recently published in the journal Nature Communications.

Ticks are one of the most common blood-feeding parasites. But experts didn’t know what they ate in prehistoric times, as parasites and their hosts are rarely found together in the fossil record. Scientists assumed they chowed down on early amphibians, reptiles, and mammals, according to NPR. They didn’t have hard evidence until study co-author David Grimaldi, an entomologist at the American Museum of History, and his colleagues spotted the tick while perusing a private collection of Myanmar amber.

A 99-million-year-old tick encased in amber, grasping a dinosaur feather.
Cornupalpatum burmanicum hard tick entangled in a feather. a Photograph of the Burmese amber piece (Bu JZC-F18) showing a semicomplete pennaceous feather. Scale bar, 5 mm. b Detail of the nymphal tick in dorsal view and barbs (inset in a). Scale bar, 1 mm. c Detail of the tick’s capitulum (mouthparts), showing palpi and hypostome with teeth (arrow). Scale bar, 0.1 mm. d Detail of a barb. Scale bar, 0.2 mm. e Drawing of the tick in dorsal view indicating the point of entanglement. Scale bar, 0.2 mm. f Detached barbule pennulum showing hooklets on one of its sides (arrow in a indicates its location but in the opposite side of the amber piece). Scale bar, 0.2 mm
Peñalver et al., Nature Communications

The tick is a nymph, meaning it was in the second stage of its short three-stage life cycle when it died. The dinosaur it fed on was a “nanoraptor,” or a tiny dino that was roughly the size of a hummingbird, Grimaldi told The Times. These creatures lived in tree nests, and sometimes met a sticky end after tumbling from their perches into hunks of gooey resin. But just because the nanoraptor lived in a nest didn’t mean it was a bird: Molecular dating pinpointed the specimen as being at least 25 million years older than modern-day avians.

In addition to ticks, dinosaurs likely also had to deal with another nest pest: skin beetles. Grimaldi’s team located several additional preserved ticks, and two were covered in the insect’s fine hairs. Skin beetles—which are still around today—are scavengers that live in aerial bird homes and consume molted feathers.

“These findings shed light on early tick evolution and ecology, and provide insights into the parasitic relationship between ticks and ancient relatives of birds, which persists today for modern birds,” researchers concluded in a news release.

[h/t The New York Times]

The Clever Adaptations That Helped Some Animals Become Gigantic

Imagine a world in which eagle-sized dragonflies buzzed through the air and millipedes as long as kayaks scuttled across Earth. "Ick"-factor aside for bug haters, these creatures aren't the product of a Michael Crichton fever dream. In fact, they actually existed around 300 million years ago, as MinuteEarth host Kate Yoshida explains.

How did the prehistoric ancestors of today’s itty-bitty insects get so huge? Oxygen, and lots of it. Bugs "breathe by sponging up air through their exoskeletons, and the available oxygen can only diffuse so far before getting used up," Yoshida explains. And when an atmospheric spike in the colorless gas occurred, this allowed the critters' bodies to expand to unprecedented dimensions and weights.

But that's just one of the clever adaptations that allowed some creatures to grow enormous. Learn more about these adaptations—including the ingenious evolutionary development that helped the biggest dinosaurs to haul their cumbersome bodies around, and the pair of features that boosted blue whales to triple their size, becoming the largest animals ever on Earth—by watching MinuteEarth's video below.


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