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Cryolophosaurus (Alain Beneteau)


Cryolophosaurus (Greek for "cold crested lizard"); pronounced CRY-oh-LOAF-oh-SORE-us


Plains of Antarctica

Historical Period:

Early Jurassic (190-185 million years ago)

Size and Weight:

About 20 feet long and 1,000-2,000 pounds



Distinguishing Characteristics:

Horizontal crest on top of head


About Cryolophosaurus:

You might think a dinosaur that lived way down in Antarctica would have needed a thick coat of fur (or feathers) to cope with the frigid conditions, but you have to remember that during the early Jurassic period, 190 million years ago, Antarctica was much closer to the equator and therefore had a more temperate climate--perhaps not as balmy as regions further north, but nowhere near the sub-freezing cold of today.

Besides its unusual Antarctic habitat, Cryolophosaurus (the "cold-crested lizard") stands out for two reasons: it was a very early carnosaur (a type of large theropod) that predated others of its kind by tens of millions of years, and it sported a strange crest atop its head that ran from ear to ear, rather than from front to back, like a pompadour. That's why the "type specimen" of Cryolophosaurus was informally dubbed Elvisaurus (after singer Elvis Presley) when it was first discovered in 1990.

What was the function of Cryolophosaurus' strange crest? Well, as a general rule, dinosaurs evolve ornamentation only when they live in packs or herds--since crests, horns and frills can all be used to signal other members of the species or compete for the right to mate with females (meaning that Cryolophosaurus males with bigger crests would have been able to produce more offspring). It's even conceivable that the crest of Cryolophosaurus was lined with surface blood vessels, and could flash bright red (or some other color) to signify danger or sexual availability.


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