Those who have seen Jurassic Park would probably remember the small lizard-like dinosaur with a rattling frill around its neck, two paddle-like crests located on its head, and who spit venom. This little creature is called a Dilophosaurus and it lived here on Earth approximately 183 million years ago. However, the movie’s depiction of it isn’t entirely correct as a new study has indicated that the real life dinosaur was much larger and more powerful.
A team of researchers from the University of Texas analyzed Dilophosaurus fossils and found that it stood at a staggering 20 feet tall and weighed as much as three quarters of a ton which made it the biggest land animal that walked the Earth during the Early Jurassic time period. In an interview with National Geographic, lead author of the study, Adam Marsh, said, “Dilophosaurus is clearly built for being a big macropredator,” adding, “It's a large-bodied animal that was built for eating other animals.”
And just like today’s birds, the Dilophosaurus’ bones contained air pockets which would have helped to support their large frame. “They're kind of like bubble wrap - the bone is protected and strengthened,” Marsh explained. A couple of pictures of its skeleton can be seen here.
Prior to this new study, not much was known about these dinosaurs. Marsh went on to say, “It's pretty much the best, worst-known dinosaur,” adding, “Until this study, nobody knew what Dilophosaurus looked like or how it evolved.”
Marsh studied the remains of five of the most complete Dilophosaurus skeletons ever found. It was previously suggested that the dinosaur had weak crests and jaws which was why the movie depicted the creature as having a rattling neck frill in addition to spewing venom to help capture its prey. However, after conducting seven years worth of analysis, Marsh didn’t find any evidence that proved that it had a rattling frill or that it spit venom.
One characteristic that the movie did get correct was the two paddle-like crests located on its head. “It has those two thin bony crests running along the top of its skull, basically from the nostril and back over the eye socket,” noted Peter Makovicky, who is a palaeontologist from the University of Minnesota.
According to the algorithm used by Marsh, there was a large evolutionary gap between the Dilophosaurus and its closest relatives which means that there are additional dinosaur species that have not yet been discovered. Now that’s exciting! It will be interesting to see how many more ancient species of dinosaurs that scientists will hopefully discover.