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.
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.
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!).