Discover Cryolophosaurus

Nathan Smith Discusses the discovery and collection of Crylophosaurus and discusses Antarctic dinosaurs and dinosaur communities.

Interact with a 3D model of the Dinosaur in Augmented Reality

View Cryolophosaurus as it appeared when alive, learn more about the discovery site and see the shift in tectonic plates.

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Trigger 1 - The Animal: Cryolophosaurus ellioti

This 24-foot long, 1100-pound carnivorous dinosaur lived 195 million years ago, early in the Jurassic Period (more than 120 million years before Tyrannosaurus rex). It was about 16 years old when it died and not quite fully grown. Its skeleton was found with the bones of a plant-eating dinosaur similar to Plateosaurus, on which it may have been feeding when it died. A small primitive mammal, represented by a single tooth found among the bones, may also have been on the menu. The carcass of Cryolophosaurus was scavenged by three other smaller carnivorous dinosaurs, who left a few of their teeth near its tooth-scarred bones.

Artist's rendering of Cryolophaosaurus with prey in Early Jurassic environment.
Artist's rendering of Cryolophosaurus with prey in Early Jurassic environment.
Image ©James Kuether

Trigger 2 - The Ancient Environment

The bones were buried in the mud of an ancient river that meandered through a forest in a warm temperate climate, not far from the sea. The world was much warmer then. The site was located 65 to 70 degrees south of the equator, about as far south as Anchorage, Alaska is north today, so the plants and animals that lived there would have had to cope with periods of darkness. Pterosaurs--flying reptiles--flew overhead, as shown by an arm bone found not far from the skeleton. Early in the Jurassic the supercontinent of Pangaea was just starting to break up, and Antarctica was still connected to Australia, Africa, South American, and India.

Map of Earth's landmass during the Early Jurassic Period

Map of Earth's landmass during the Early Jurassic Period
Peleographic Map by C.R. Scotese.

Trigger 3 - The Discovery

Dr. David Elliot, a geology professor of The Ohio State University, discovered the skeleton in 1990 while doing geologic work on the slopes of Mt. Kirkpatrick in the Beardmore Glacier region of the Transantarctic Mountains, at an elevation of 13,500 feet, only 375 miles from the South Pole. The skeleton in Orton Hall is a replica. Although Dr. Elliot discovered the dinosaur, he was studying volcanic rocks, so other scientists excavated the real fossil bones and name it in his honor in 1994. Cryo means cold, in reference to the locality, and lopho means crested, in reference to the bony "cockscomb" on its head.

Team of paleontologists excavating the original skeleton on Mr. Kirkpatrick, circa 1994
Team of paleontologists excavating the original skeleton on Mr. Kirkpatrick, circa 1994
Photo courtesy of The Ohio State University

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