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Home / Science / ‘Jurassic Park’ wasn’t quite right about this dinosaur. It was more bird than lizard

‘Jurassic Park’ wasn’t quite right about this dinosaur. It was more bird than lizard

Far from the small lizard-like dinosaur in the movie, the Dilophosaurus was the largest land animal of its time, reaching up to 20 feet in length.

science Updated: Jul 09, 2020 17:29 IST
hindustantimes.com | Edited  by Anubha Rohatgi
hindustantimes.com | Edited by Anubha Rohatgi
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
An artist’s interpretation of Dilophosaurus based on the latest research.
An artist’s interpretation of Dilophosaurus based on the latest research. (Credit: Brian Engh / The Saint George Dinosaur Discovery Site.)

Remember the iconic 1993 movie “Jurassic Park” and all those scary dinosaurs? One of them in particular, the Dilophosaurus, was actually quite different that how it was depicted in the movie, according to a new study.

Far from the small lizard-like dinosaur in the movie, the Dilophosaurus, that roamed the earth 183 million years ago, was the largest land animal of its time, reaching up to 20 feet in length. It had much in common with the modern-day bird including air sacs in its bones

“It’s pretty much the best, worst-known dinosaur,” said lead author Adam Marsh. “Until this study, nobody knew what Dilophosaurus looked like or how it evolved.” Marsh conducted an analysis of the five most-complete Dilophosaurus specimens while working on his Ph.D from the University of Texas, Austin.

Unlike early descriptions that characterize the dinosaur as having a fragile crest and weak jaws, Marsh found that the dinosaur’s jawbones show signs of serving as scaffolding for powerful muscles. He also found that some bones were mottled with air pockets, which would have helped reinforce the skeleton, including its dual crest.

“They’re kind of like bubble wrap – the bone is protected and strengthened,” Marsh said.

The air sacs, found both in Dilophosaurus’ bones as well as in modern birds, help lighten the load in both creatures. In the case of dinosaurs, it helped the gigantic creatures to manage their bulky bodies while in modern birds, it helps them in flying.

Many birds use the air sacs to perform other functions, from inflating stretchy areas of skin during mating rituals, to creating booming calls and dispersing heat. The intricate array of air pockets and ducts that extend from Dilophosaurus’ sinus cavity into its crests means that the dinosaur may have been able to perform similar feats with its headgear.

And the headgear or the head crest is one feature of Dilophosaurus that Steven Speilberg’s “Jurassic Park” got right, Marsh noted, adding it may have been used in a mating ritual to woo mates.

To learn more about how the fossils compared with one another, Marsh recorded hundreds of anatomical characteristics of each fossil. He then used an algorithm to see how the specimens compared with the first fossil – which confirmed that they were indeed all Dilophosaurus, according to the statement by the University of Texas.

The algorithm also revealed that there’s a significant evolutionary gap between Dilophosaurus and its closest dinosaur relatives, which indicates there are probably many other relatives yet to be discovered.

The research was published in the Journal of Paleontology.

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