New analysis shows that Dilophosaurus had air sacs in its bones and was up to 6 meters long – much larger than the beasts in the film.
A study by the University of Texas at Austin, in the United States, shows that the famous Dilophosaurus was quite different from what was imagined. In Jurassic Park, it is portrayed as a human-sized dinosaur that spits venom from its neck. However, paleontologists claim that it looked more like modern birds. The research was published in the Journal of Paleontology.
One of the main differences is that it was not a small dinosaur. The real Dilophosaurus was the largest land animal of its time – 183 million years ago, during the Lower Jurassic -, reaching up to 6 meters (20 ft) in length.
The study’s lead author, Adam Marsh, analyzed five almost complete Dilophosaurus fossils during his doctorate. The first descriptions of the animal characterized it with a fragile crest and weak jaws – which influenced the creation of Dilophosaurus in Jurassic Park as a slender dinosaur that subdued its prey with venom.
But when analyzing the fossils, Marsh found the opposite of that description: Dilophosaurus’ jaws had powerful muscles. He also found that some bones had traces of air sacs, which would have helped to strengthen the animal’s skeleton, including its double crest. “They’re kind of like bubble wrap – the bone is protected and strengthened,” Marsh said.
These air sacs are not exclusive to Dilophosaurus. Modern birds have them, as did the most massive dinosaurs that ever existed. The sacs reduce the animal’s weight, which helped large dinosaurs to move around.
The researcher noted down several anatomical features of each fossil and compared them using algorithms, confirming that they all belonged to the genus Dilophosaurus. The calculation also revealed that there is an evolutionary gap between the animal and its closest dinosaur relatives, indicating that there are probably many more to be discovered.
The new discoveries about Dilophosaurus will help paleontologists around the world to identify fossil samples.