10 Facts About Dilophosaurus

dilophosaurus
Dilophosaurus. H. Kyoht Luterman

Thanks to its inaccurate portrayal in Jurassic Park, Dilophosaurus may be the most misunderstood dinosaur that ever lived. On the following slides, you'll discover ten guaranteed-to-be-true facts about this Jurassic dinosaur, which should permanently displace the poison-spitting, neck-fluttering, dog-sized chimera of Steven Spielberg's imagination. 

01
of 10

Dilophosaurus Didn't Spit Poison at its Prey

dilophosaurus
Flickr

The single biggest fabrication in the entire Jurassic Park series was when that cute, curious little Dilophosaurus sprayed burning venom in the face of Wayne Knight. Not only wasn't Dilophosaurus poisonous, by any stretch of the imagination, but to date there's no convincing evidence that any dinosaur of the Mesozoic Era deployed poison in its offensive or defensive arsenal (there was briefly some buzz about the feathered dinosaur Sinornithosaurus, but it later turned out that this carnivore's "venom sacs" were a actually displaced teeth).

02
of 10

Dilophosaurus Didn't Have an Expandable Neck Frill

dilophosaurus
Universal Pictures

Slightly more excusable than its poison-spitting bad manners, from a dramatic point of view, is the fluttering neck crest that Jurassic Park's special-effects mavens bestowed on Dilophosaurus. There's no reason to believe that Dilophosaurus (or any meat-eating dinosaur, for that matter) possessed such a frill, but since this is the kind of soft-tissued anatomical feature that wouldn't preserve well in the fossil record, there's at least some room for reasonable doubt.

03
of 10

Dilophosaurus Was Much, Much Bigger than a Golden Retriever

dilophosaurus
Wikimedia Commons

Just to round out the Jurassic Park trifecta: in the movie, Dilophosaurus is portrayed as a cute, playful, dog-sized critter, but the fact is that this dinosaur measured about 20 feet from head to tail and weighed in the neighborhood of 1,000 pounds when it was fully grown, much bigger than the biggest bears alive today. (To be fair, the Dilophosaurus in the movie may have been intended as a juvenile or even a recent hatchling, but that's certainly not the way it was perceived by most viewers!)

04
of 10

Dilophosaurus Was Named After its Paired Head Crests

dilophosaurus
Wikimedia Commons

The most distinctive (real) feature of Dilophosaurus was the paired crests on top of its skull, the function of which remains a mystery. Most likely, these crests were either a sexually selected characteristic (that is, males with prominent crests were more attractive to females during mating season, thus helping to propagate this trait), or they helped individual members of the pack to recognize each other from afar (assuming, of course, that Dilophosaurus hunted or traveled in packs).

05
of 10

Dilophosaurus Lived During the Early Jurassic Period

dilophosaurus
Wikimedia Commons

One of the most unusual things about Dilophosaurus is when it lived: the early Jurassic period, about 200 to 190 million years ago, not a particularly productive time in terms of the fossil record. What this means is that the North American Dilophosaurus was a relatively recent descendant of the first true dinosaurs, which evolved in South America during the preceding Triassic period, about 230 million years ago. (See a fossil history of Dilophosaurus).

06
of 10

No One Is Sure How Dilophosaurus Should Be Classified

dilophosaurus
Wikimedia Commons

A bewildering array of small- to medium-sized theropod dinosaurs roamed the earth during the early Jurassic period, all of them, like Dilophosaurus, related in some way to the very first dinosaurs from 30 to 40 million years before. Some paleontologists classify Dilophosaurus as a "ceratosaur" (and thus akin to Ceratosaurus), while others peg it as a close relative of the extremely numerous Coelophysis; one expert even insists that the closest relative of Dilophosaurus was the Antarctic Cryolophosaurus.

07
of 10

Dilophosaurus Wasn't the Only "-lophosaurus"

trilophosaurus
Trilophosaurus (Wikimedia Commons).

It isn't quite as well known as Dilophosaurus ("double-crested lizard"), but Monolophosaurus ("single-crested lizard") was another, slightly smaller theropod dinosaur of late Jurassic Asia, closely related to the better-known Allosaurus. The earlier Triassic period witnessed the tiny, toothless Trilophosaurus ("three-crested lizard"), which wasn't a dinosaur at all but a genus of archosaur, the family of reptiles from which dinosaurs evolved. To date, no one has bestowed the name Tetralophosaurus on any prehistoric creature!

08
of 10

Dilophosaurus May Have Had a Warm-Blooded Metabolism

dilophosaurus
Sergey Krasovskiy

There's a good case to be made that the fleet, predatory theropod dinosaurs of the Mesozoic Era were powered by warm-blooded physiologies, akin to those of modern mammals (and, of course, human beings). Although we have no direct evidence that Dilophosaurus possessed feathers (a feature of many Cretaceous meat-eaters that points to an endothermic metabolism), there's no compelling evidence against this hypothesis, either--except for the fact that feathered dinosaurs would have been rare on the ground during the early Jurassic period.

09
of 10

For a Half-Ton Dinosaur, Dilophosaurus Had Unusually Healthy Feet

dilophosaurus
Wikimedia Commons

Just as some people go to medical school to become podiatrists, some paleontologists insist that the most telling feature of any given dinosaur fossil is--get ready--its feet. In 2001, a team of foot-obsessed researchers examined 60 separate metatarsal fragments attributed to Dilophosaurus, but found no evidence of any stress fractures--which either means that this dinosaur was unusually light on its feet when hunting prey, or had a very good health insurance plan.

10
of 10

Dilophosaurus Was Once Assigned as a Species of Megalosaurus

megalosaurus
Some scattered bones of Megalosaurus (Wikimedia Commons).

For over 100 years after it was named, Megalosaurus served as a "wastebasket taxon" for plain-vanilla theropods: pretty much any dinosaur that resembled it was assigned to it as a separate species. In 1954, a dozen years after its fossil was discovered in Arizona, Dilophosaurus was classified as a Megalosaurus species; it was only much later, in 1970, that the paleontologist who unearthed the original "type fossil" finally coined the genus name Dilophosaurus.