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Cryolophosaurus

KRY - oh - loh - foh - SAW - rus

Theropoda/Tetanurae
Todd Marshall. Copyright 2007

Field Notes

Name Means: "Frozen-crested lizard"
Length: 24 feet (7.5 m)
Diet: Carnivore (Meat-Eater)
Time: Early Jurassic
Location: Central eastern Antarctica

The geologist David Elliott discovered the remains of Cryolophosaurus, a moderately large theropod, in 1990. They were high up near the summit of Mount Kirkpatrick in the central Transantarctic Mountains-what would have been, in the early Jurassic, the eastern side of the great southern continent of Gondwana. The remains, which were mixed with those of a prosauropod dinosaur, a pterosaur, and a tritylodont mammal-like reptile, were excavated the following year by Dr. William Hammer. The teeth of two other kinds of theropods that were found in the sediment enclosing the remains suggest that the dead Cryolophosaurus had been gnawed by scavengers.

Cryolophosaurus is known from much of the skull and from a partial skeleton. It is particularly significant because it is the only relatively well-preserved theropod that has been found from the eastern part of Gondwana. The features that most clearly distinguished Cryolophosaurus were the unusual backward-sweeping crests of bone that protruded on the top of the skull above the eyes. Small horns were situated adjacent to these crests. The crests were formed by the lacrimal bone of the skull, which extended along the entire width of the head from between the eyes. As with other crested theropods, such as Dilophosaurus, the crests may have been used during courtship displays or as a means of signaling to other members of the species.

Despite displaying a number of primitive theropod features, Cryolophosaurus was closely related to the allosauroids of the later Jurassic period. Its serrated, dagger-like teeth were clearly those of a carnivore.

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