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Virtual Dilophosaurus of Jurassic Park

Dilophosaurus wetherilli Dinosaur Facts

The Dilophosaurus is another dinosaur who became known for his role in the very popular movie Jurassic Park. But just like the Velociraptor, the producers have conveyed a lot of lies about this creature to the point that people have a completely distorted view of this beast. The cinematographic representation of Dilophosaurus does not correspond to the actual version.

A great ceratosaur theropod

In the film, the Dilophosaurus is portrayed as a small, almost friendly creature that one would like to adopt as a pet. What Hollywood has hidden from us, however, is that unlike the virtual representation of the animal, which is only slightly larger than a Labrador, the true Dilophosaurus was a large ceratosaurus theropod measuring up to 20 feet long (6 meters) and weighed nearly 1000 pounds. Much bigger than a dog, his weight was roughly five times that of a good size wild boar!

Dilophosaurus did not spit venom as in Jurassic Park

The creative imagination of director Steven Spielberg does not fail to play tricks on us. One of the biggest myths about Dilophosaurus is that this dinosaur is able to spit venom into the eyes of its prey to blind them; a black sticky substance very much like oil. Not only did Dilophosaurus not spray poison on the faces of its victims, but there is no convincing evidence that no Mesozoic-era dinosaur has ever used poison for offensive or defensive purposes. It is still a pure invention from the brain of the greatest film director in the world. These are all good reasons to never believe what we are shown on television and in movies; it is only dramatization and sensationalism.

Jurassic Park cult scene with Dennis Nedry (Wayne Knight)

Dilophosaurus did not have a frill like in the movie

We could begin to believe that the entire Jurassic franchise universe is only fiction, and we would be very close to reality since the production does not stop there. Fanatics of special effects will have no surprise to learn that the crest around the neck of Dilophosaurus was added by artists in computer imaging. In truth, there is no reason to believe that Dilophosaurus or any other carnivorous dinosaurs possessed such a frill. This is rather a typical attribute of ceratopsians like Triceratops.

Double crest on the skull

Dilophosaurus crest

The distinguishing feature of Dilophosaurus is the double ridges located on the top of its skull. To this day we still do not know what they could serve. Most likely, this pair of ridges, when protruding, was a selective sexual feature that made males more attractive to females during mating. These ridges could also have helped members of a pack to recognize themselves from afar, so long as the Dilophosaurus was hunting or traveling in a group. The name "Dilophosaurus" also honors this peculiarity and means "Lizard with two ridges".

Dilophosaurus lived during the Lower Jurassic

Curiously, this ceratosaur lived in the Lower Jurassic Period, 200 million to 190 million years ago. This is not a particularly productive period in terms of fossils discovered. This places the Dilophosaurus of North America very close to the very first dinosaurs from the point of view of relative descent. Dinosaurs appeared and began to blossom in South America during the Upper Triassic (Carnian) period, 230 million years ago. The Dilophosaurus is one of the oldest and most misunderstood theropod ceratosaurs known. This dinosaur lived in Arizona in the United States and China (although this remains to be confirmed) in the forested areas near the rivers. This bipedal predator could move very quickly in the undergrowth and along watercourses. There are mainly 2 species of Dilophosaurus:

  • D. wetherilli
  • D. sinensis (Dilophosaure chinois)


Dilophosaurus fossil

The earliest finds of Dilophosaurus were made in the 1940's (1942) by a man named Sam Welles on an expedition to Navajo County, Arizona. In the Kayenta Formation, he discovered three dinosaur fossils in a triangle of about 20 feet; 1 completely eroded and 2 others in rather good condition. The bones were later brought back to the University of Berkeley and cleaned. A dozen years later, not knowing exactly what species of dinosaurs he was dealing with, Welles classified the specimen with the Megalosaurus (a tethered species for theropods). It was only after finding a fourth fossil some hundreds of meters from the original site that Sam Welles noticed the distinctive feature of the animal: the double crest. It was then that he realized that this fossil belonged to a new species of dinosaur that he named Dilophosaurus wetherilli.

In the early 2000s some other specimens of Dilophosaurus were found not far from where Sam Welles found the first remains. An almost complete skeleton of a great ceratosaur theropod very similar to Dilophosaurus was also found in the Lufeng Formation in China. Some time later, however, the specimen was identified as a Sinosaurus; therefore, there is currently no reason to believe that the Dilophosaurus lived elsewhere than in Arizona since it is here that all the remains were found.

The fossils of this dinosaur are very rare, incomplete and very old. Little is known about this Lower Jurassic species.


The Dilophosaurus had a very light build and could move very quickly at speeds exceeding 40 km / h. It was also very powerful for a 1000 pound theropod, although it was no match for tyrannosaurids like Allosaurus and Tyrannosaurus Rex. This dinosaur was about 8 feet tall (2.5 meters) and had strong hind legs. These hind legs were garnished with very powerful claws that it probably used as a weapon when hunting but also aided locomotion.

His hands contained four large fingers (three of which had claws) which is very typical of ceratosaurs. Its feet are characteristic of theropods and had five fingers, two of which are extremely small and not preserved in the holotype specimen.

The dentition of Dilophosaurus is particularly strange. Towards the back of the upper jaw, several teeth are very weakly anchored, but those located further forward are much stronger. Scientists believe that its mouth did not allowed it to hunt large preys. In addition, the bones of its jaw (premaxilary and maxillary) are also weakly connected to each other; a distinctive feature of ceratosaurs theropods.

Food and hunting technique

The Dilophosaurus was carnivorous and probably ate smaller prosauropod herbivorous dinosaurs because its jaw was not made to attack larger prey. It attacked by gripping his victims and then killed them with its hind claws before picking food from their carcasses.

Some scientists believe, however, that since this ceratosaur had fragile teeth that could easily break, it probably had to feed on fish or animals already dead. In other words, it was a piscivore and a scavenger.


The classification of this dinosaur is still uncertain. There is a confusing array of small and medium-sized theropod dinosaurs that landed in the early Jurassic period. Most paleontologists classify Dilophosaurus in ceratosaurs while others believe that it is a close relative of Coelophysis. One expert in particular strongly insists that Dilophosaurus is very close to the Antarctic dinosaur Cryolophosaurus.

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