Corythosaurus

corythosaurus
Corythosaurus (Safari, Ltd.).

Name:

Corythosaurus (Greek for "Corinthian-helmet lizard"); pronounced core-ITH-oh-SORE-us

Habitat:

Forests and plains of North America

Historical Period:

Late Cretaceous (75 million years ago)

Size and Weight:

About 30 feet long and five tons

Diet:

Plants

Distinguishing Characteristics:

Large, bony crest on head; ground-hugging, quadrupedal posture

 

About Corythosaurus

As you can guess from its name, the most distinctive feature of the hadrosaur (duck-billed dinosaur) Corythosaurus was the prominent crest on its head, which looked a bit like the helmet worn by the ancient Greek soldiers of the city-state of Corinth.

Unlike the case with distantly related bone-headed dinosaurs like Pachycephalosaurus, however, this crest probably evolved less to establish dominance in the herd, or the right to mate with females by head-butting other male dinosaurs, but rather for display and communication purposes. Also, Corythosaurus wasn't native to Greece, but to the plains and woodlands of late Cretaceous North America, about 75 million years ago.

In a spectacular bit of applied paleontology, researchers have created three-dimensional models of Corythosaurus' hollow head crest, and discovered that these structures create booming sounds when funneled with blasts of air. It's clear that this large, gentle dinosaur used its crest to signal (extremely loudly) to others of its kind--though we may never know whether these sounds were meant to broadcast sexual availability, keep the herd in check during migrations, or warn about the presence of hungry predators like Gorgosaurus.

Most likely, communication was also the function of the even more ornate head crests of related hadrosaurs like Parasaurolophus and Charonosaurus.

The "type fossils" of many dinosaurs (most notably the north African meat-eater Spinosaurus) were destroyed during World War II by Allied bombing raids on Germany; Corythosaurus is unique in that two of its fossils went belly-up during World War I.

In 1916, an England-bound ship carrying various fossil remains excavated from Canada's Dinosaur Provincial Park was sunk by a German raider; to date, no one has attempted to salvage the wreckage (and in any case, the valuable Corythosaurus fossils have probably been damaged beyond repair by years of exposure to salt water).