|Name Meaning||Frozen crested lizard||Height||2.3 meters (7.5 feet)|
|Pronunciation||Kry-oh-low-foh-sore-us||Length||6-7 meters (19.6-22.9 feet)|
|Era||Mesozoic – Early Jurassic||Weight||350-465 kilograms (772-1,025 lbs)|
|Classification||Dinosauria, Saurischia & Theropoda||Location||Antarctica|
The Cryolophosaurus is a genus of dinosaur that includes only one species, Cryolophosaurus ellioti.
Fossils belonging to this creature have revealed that it was a large bipedal theropod that roamed the Earth approximately 186-182 million years ago during the Early Jurassic.
This species is known from a skull, a femur, and other fragmentary fossils that were discovered in what is now known as Antarctica.
Despite the scarcity of fossils, it is still one of Antarctica’s most well-studied prehistoric creatures.
In fact, it is now considered the first carnivorous dinosaur and the first officially named non-avian dinosaur from the region.
As such, the species has gained significant interest from paleontologists and other field-related specialists.
The Cryolophosaurus, also known as the frozen crested lizard, was a well-built theropod believed to have been a top predator in its habitat.
It walked on two legs and had an elongated skull, a long tail, and a distinctive crest on its head that prompted people to nickname it Elvisaurus.
These are only some of the incredible details we’ve discovered about the Cryolophosaurus!
We are excited to share them with you, so keep reading to learn more about this dinosaur from Antarctica!
The Cryolophosaurus was one of the largest theropods of the Early Jurassic, and some scientists even argue that it was the largest!
If we guide ourselves by the holotype specimen, we can argue that this dinosaur measured 6-7 meters (19.6-22.9 feet) in length, although other estimates mention a length of up to 7.7 meters (25.3 feet).
The same goes for its weight – while some specialists provide an estimated range of 350-465 kilograms (772-1,025 pounds), others indicate a weight of 780 kilograms (1,719 pounds).
The species was likely approximately 2.3 meters (7.5 feet) tall.
The holotype specimen is considered a subadult, suggesting that adults were probably even larger.
What distinguishes the Cryolophosaurus from other theropods is its large midline crest running just over the eyes and rising perpendicular to the skull.
The Cryolophosaurus was bipedal and had a robust build. It had short forelimbs and strong, elongated hind limbs.
The tail was long, and the head and neck were likely elongated as well.
Unfortunately, very little is known about this theropod besides these characteristics, as only a few fossils have been found.
Given its historical location, it’s no wonder that fossil discoveries aren’t abundant.
Habitat and Distribution
The Cryolophosaurus was discovered in Antarctica, specifically in the Hanson Formation on Mount Kirkpatrick, within a valley glacier known as the Beardmore Glacier.
This formation is roughly 4,000 meters (13,000 feet) above sea level and is part of the Victoria Group within the Transantarctic Mountains.
You’re probably wondering how dinosaurs survived in the cold of what is now known as Antarctica, right?
Well, the truth is that Antarctica wasn’t as cold during the Early Jurassic as it is today.
It was situated closer to the equator and was much warmer.
Although it had a cool temperate climate, it likely never dropped below freezing point.
However, the ecosystem in the region was highly unstable, as the territory was characterized by intense volcanic activity.
Therefore, although it didn’t have to endure the harsh cold, the Cryolophosaurus still lived in a constantly perturbed environment.
Unfortunately, it’s unknown how this volcanic activity affected its lifestyle.
Despite the intense volcanic activity and the cool temperate climate, the region was rich in flora. Here are some plants found in the region:
- Isoetalean lycophytes
Behavior and Diet
The Cryolophosaurus was likely one of the top predators in its habitat. It was a bipedal carnivore thought to have fed on local prosauropods.
This is backed up by the fact that the fossils belonging to the type specimen included several prosauropod dinosaur cervical ribs found in the mouth of the dinosaur we’re discussing today.
This prompted scientists to argue that the creature choked to death while feasting on a prosauropod.
Others, however, suggested that the ribs belonged to the Cryolophosaurus itself, and it’s no evidence that the creature was feeding on a prosauropod when it died.
It is also believed that the creature was likely capable of preying on much larger prey, such as large sauropods and sauropodomorphs, which have been associated with the same geological quarry as the Cryolophosaurus.
Another interesting behavioral trait of the Cryolophosaurus is that it might’ve engaged in cannibalism.
Several theropod teeth were found near the holotype specimen, and paleontologists believe they belonged to a juvenile Cryolophosaurus.
Some paleontologists and biologists regarded it as an indication of cannibalistic behavior.
The physiology of the creature’s hindlimbs indicates that it could run at high speeds or, at least, engage in quick movements.
This confirms again that the Cryolophosaurus was an excellent predator.
Apart from this, little is known about its lifestyle, behavior, and diet.
However, there’s one thing we haven’t mentioned yet – the function of the distinctive crest.
Some theories suggest it might have been used for intra-species recognition.
It might’ve also been used as a weapon, too, but other specialists rushed to disapprove of this theory, sustaining that the crest could have cracked easily if used in combat.
Apart from what is listed above, the Cryolophosaurus might have used its bizarre crest for mating purposes, such as sexual display or mating selection.
Like all dinosaurs, the Cryolophosaurus reproduced by laying eggs.
Like with other dinosaurs, male Cryolophosaurus dinosaurs likely had internal testes and a retractable penis, while the females had paired ovaries and oviducts.
Additionally, they had a system similar to that of crocodilians where the mature eggs were stored while awaiting fertilization.
Unlike modern birds, who reproduce by laying only one egg at a time because they have only one functional oviduct, dinosaurs lay two eggs at a time.
Scientists believe the eggs formed as they do now in crocodiles and birds.
Unfortunately, since egg fossils are rare, it’s unknown what Cryolophosaurus eggs looked like, what kind of nests these dinosaurs used, and whether or not the eggs were incubated.
Based on the incubation period of crocodiles and birds, scientists calculated that theropod eggs, including Cryolophosaurus eggs, likely required an incubation period between 60 to 90 days, and the hatchlings probably needed their parents’ help to crack the egg.
Whether baby Cryolophosaurus were precocial remains a mystery.
However, since the evidence shows that many baby dinosaurs were precocial, meaning they were pretty independent right after birth, we cannot rule out the possibility that baby Cryolophosaurus were precocial too.
Evolution and History
As you’ve already learned, the Cryolophosaurus was a theropod, so it’s of the essence to start this discussion by outlining some significant facts about the theropod’s evolutionary history.
It is believed that the earliest theropods were Eodromaeus and the carnivorous dinosaurs Herrerasauridae of Argentina.
As such, the most primitive theropods likely roamed through North and South America but eventually spread to other parts of the world.
These creatures lived around 230 million years ago, and they were followed by many other different theropods whose fossils were discovered over time, thus helping paleontologists outline the theropod evolutionary history.
The genus we’re discussing today, the Cryolophosaurus, is part of the Neotheropoda clade, the only theropod clade with species that survived the Triassic-Jurassic extinction event.
This clade includes modern birds.
As such, since the Cryolophosaurus is also part of this clade, we might say it’s a very distant (although closer than other dinosaur species) relative of modern birds.
However, the Cryolophosaurus wasn’t always considered a neotheropod.
Upon the discovery of the first fossils (which occurred during the 1990-1991 austral summer), the dinosaur was classified under Allosauridae, and scientists suspected the specimen was probably a ceratosaur or an abelisaur.
After numerous studies and reclassifications, scientists concluded that the Cryolophosaurus was a neotheropod close to Avenostra.
Interactions with Other Species
Very little is known about the fauna of the territory we now call Antarctica.
Although various fossils were discovered, and paleontologists suspect which types of dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures they belong to, there isn’t enough evidence that would help confirm any species officially.
Fragmentary material recovered from the region likely belonged to at least two scavenging theropods, a large plateosaurid prosauropod, a pterosaur, and a large tritylodont.
Most of the discovered fossils belonged to the Cryolophosaurus, which is why it’s now the most well-known dinosaur from Antarctica.
Another relatively well-known dinosaur from Antarctica is the Saurischian Glacialisaurus, which lived during the same period as the Cryolophosaurus, around 186-182 million years ago.
Unlike the Cryolophosaurus, it was a herbivore, so it might’ve served as prey for the frozen-crested lizard.
Since the Cryolophosaurus is the first carnivorous dinosaur discovered in Antarctica, it carries significant paleontological information.
Besides this, it was one of the largest theropods roaming the Earth during the Early Jurassic.
As such, its discovery led to numerous studies and analyses concerning this genus.
Scientists have been particularly concerned with the classification of this newly described dinosaur, with the paleoenvironment it inhabited, and with its appearance and diet.
Despite this, much information is still missing, especially regarding the creature’s lifestyle.
We hope that future research papers reveal more jaw-dropping details that will make dinosaur enthusiasts curious!
Thanks to its uniqueness, the Cryolophosaurus is now a popular dinosaur in the world of entertainment.
It can be seen in the first episode of Dinosaur Revolution, in Primal Carnage, and in Primal Carnage: Extinction.
It is also a notable appearance in the Jurassic World franchise, primarily in Warpath: Jurassic Park and Jurassic World Evolution 2.
The Cryolophosaurus is also a creature in ARK Additions.
Who would’ve thought dinosaurs lived in Antarctica as well?!
Since the territory was much warmer back then, it seems only natural that it was rich both in fauna and flora.
Cryolophosaurus is one of the prehistoric creatures that lived in the not-so-cold region around 186-182 million years ago.
It was a bipedal carnivore and an excellent hunter that likely fed on pterosaurs or even large sauropods.
This theropod is most renowned for its bizarre crest, which was likely used rather for sexual selection than as a weapon.
Since it’s one of the few dinosaurs known from Antarctica, studying the Cryolophosaurus is especially important in the universe of paleontology, and dinosaur enthusiasts do not want to miss any upcoming discoveries!
Is Cryolophosaurus bigger than a T-Rex?
Tyrannosaurus rex, commonly called T-Rex, measured up to 12.3-12.4 meters (40.4-40.7 feet) long.
The Cryolophosaurus was much shorter than the T-Rex, measuring only 6-7 meters (19.6-22.9 feet) long.
Is Cryolophosaurus a Dilophosaurus?
The Cryolophosaurus is not a Dilophosaurus. These two creatures are part of different genera.
However, both are neotheropods in the Neotheropoda clade.
This confusion between the two comes from the fact that the Cryolophosaurus was once classified as a dilophosaurid.
What Dinosaur is named after Elvis?
No dinosaur was named after Elvis.
There’s a common misconception regarding the Cryolophosaurus, saying it was named after Elvis because of its distinctive crest.
The species name has a different meaning:
- Cryolophosaurus, the generic name, comes from the Greek words for frozen, crest, and lizard, which is why the creature is often referred to as the frozen crested lizard.
- ellioti, the specific name, honors David Elliot, who discovered the first fossils.
Some call this dinosaur Elvisaurus, but the species wasn’t scientifically named after Elvis.