3d art render of a Cryolophosaurus head. Made with Daz Studio, Bryce7 and photoshop.
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Cryolophosaurus meaning “cold crest lizard”) was a large theropod dinosaur, with a crest on its head that looked like a Spanish comb. Due to the resemblance of this feature to Elvis Presley’s pompadour haircut from the 1950s, this dinosaur was at one point informally known as “Elvisaurus”.
Cryolophosaurus was excavated from Antarctica’s Early Jurassic iensbachian stage) Hanson Formation (former the upper Falla Formation) by paleontologist Dr. William Hammer in 1991. It is the first carnivorous dinosaur to be discovered in Antarctica and the first dinosaur of any kind from the continent to be officially named (other than birds).1 Dating from the Early
Jurassic Period, it was originally described as the earliest known tetanuran, though subsequent studies have found that it is probably a dilophosaurid. Nesbitt (et al., 2009) using the characters of Tawa found it to be a neither dilophosaurid nor averostran neotheropod but the sister group of a clade composed of dilophosaurids and averostrans.
The holotype and only known individual of Cryolophosaurus is estimated as 6.5 metres (21 ft) long and weighing 465 kilograms (1,030 lb); this individual may represent a sub-adult and thus not fully grown, however.
Classification is difficult because Cryolophosaurus has a mix of primitive and advanced characteristics. The leg bone (femur) has traits of early theropods, while the skull resembles much later species of the clade Tetanurae, like China’s Sinraptor and Yangchuanosaurus. Originally, Hammer and colleagues suspected that Cryolophosaurus might be a ceratosaur or even an early abelisaur, with some traits convergent with those of more advanced tetanurans, but ultimately concluded that it was itself the earliest known member of the tetanuran group. While a subsequent study by Hammer (along with Smith and Currie) again recovered Cryolophosaurus as a tetanuran, a later (2007) study by the same authors found that it was more closely related to Dilophosaurus and Dracovenator than to etanurans.Cryolophosaurus is also of significance because it represents the oldest known tetanuran from any continent — it is the only one from the Early Jurassic."
The remains of the Cryolophosaurus were found in the Hanson Formation with the remains of Glacialisaurus (a large basal sauropodomorph), a small pterosaur, a mammal-like reptile (a tritylodont, which is a type of synapsid about the size of a rat), and another unknown theropod. There were also fossilized tree trunks two meters away. The site is about 4,000 meters 13,000 feet) above sea level.
This supports the idea that, even at high altitudes, early Jurassic Antarctica had forests populated by a diverse range of species, at least along the coast. Even though Antarctica was closer to the equator and the world was considerably warmer than today, the climate was still cool temperate. Recent models of Jurassic air flow indicate that coastal areas probably never ropped much below freezing, although more extreme conditions existed inland. Cryolophosaurus was found about 650 kilometers (400 mi) from the South Pole but, at the time it lived, this was about 1,000 km (621 mi) or so farther north.
A high, narrow skull was discovered, 65 centimeters (25 inches)long. The peculiar nasal crest runs just over the eyes, where it rises up perpendicular to the skull and fans out. It is furrowed, giving it a comb-like appearance. It is an extension of the skull bones, near the tear ducts, fused on either side to horns which rise from the eye sockets (orbital horns). While other theropods like the Monolophosaurus have crests, they usually run along the skull instead of across it.