Last updated on April 16, 2014 at 7:10 EDT


Dilophosaurus, meaning “two-crested lizard”, was a theropod dinosaur from the Early Jurassic Period (Pliensbachian stage). It was first described 1954, but it did not recieve its current genus name until years later. It is one of the earliest known theropods, and one of the least understood as well. It was discovered by Sam Welles in the summer of 1942 and brought to Berkeley for cleaning and mounting. It was given the name Megalosaurus wetherilli. Welles returned to the dig site about ten years later to determine from which time period the specimen originated. Upon investigation, he found another specimen not far from the previous one, and based on new information, the specimens were renamed Dilophosaurus based on a visible double crest in the new skeleton.

Other specimens have been found that have been labeled Dilophosaurus in the past, including one found in China in 1987 and another discovered by Welles and Pickering in 1999. But these specimens have not been fully studied and there is no valid proof that they are in fact members of Dilophosaurus.

Dilophosaurus was about 20 feet in length and weighed 1000 pounds. One of its most distinct features would have been the pair of rounded crests on its skull. This crest was probably used for display. Some studies done by Robert Gay show that the crests may be larger or smaller depending on the sex of the animal. It had long teeth, but a small base. The presence of a small notch behind the first row of teeth, also gave this specimen a crocodile-like appearance. Its front teeth were likely too weak to bring down and hold large prey. It is believed to have been a scavenger.

Dilophosaurus has appeared in the movie Jurassic Park and was also in the original novel by Michael Crichton. In the film, Dilophosaurus had a retractable neck frill and had the ability to spit blinding poison into the eyes of its prey which ultimately paralyzed them. There is no evidence to support either the frill or the venom spitting. It was acknowledged only as a creative license by Michael Crichton. Also, in the movie, Steven Spielberg reduced the size of the specimen from 20 feet long to only 5 feet long. Dilophosaurus has appeared in many other media franchises as well, most emphasizing its appearance based on the Jurassic Park film rather than reality. Turok, a video game released in 2008, depicted Dilophosaurus more as it may have looked in real life.

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