New Dilophosaurus Scale Model –  a Bright Red Crested Dinosaur

An important decision that has to be taken by every prehistoric animal model manufacturer is what colour to paint their models.  Unfortunately, palaeontologists can offer only limited advice in terms of colouration, as generally colour is not preserved in the fossil record.  This problem was illustrated when Bullyland of Germany wanted to refresh their Dilophosaurus model, which is part of the prehistoric animal scale model series.

Dilophosaurus was a relatively large carnivorous dinosaur that lived in the western United States at the beginning of the Jurassic period (approximately 200-190 million years ago).  The early Jurassic fossil record is quite poor and little is known about the Earth’s flora and fauna at this particular time, so the discovery of a six metre, meat-eating dinosaur was extremely significant.

The first fossils of Dilophosaurus were discovered during a fossil hunting expedition to Arizona sponsored by the University of California in 1942.  Three individual and partial skeletons were found, although two of them were very poorly preserved and crucially no skull material was found.  The American palaeontologist Dr. Sam Welles was able to name and describe this new dinosaur in 1954 (it took many years for the fossils to be stabilised and prepared for further study).  Due to the poor state of the fossils, Dr Welles misidentified this dinosaur as a type of Megalosaur (a Jurassic predator known mainly from Europe).  The fossil record of carnivorous dinosaurs from the lower to middle Jurassic is so poor that a lot of finds end up being wrongly classified.  Indeed, genus Megalosaurus has got a bit of a reputation for being a dumping ground for dinosaur meat-eater miscellany.

To read more about this topic : Megalosaurus – A Dinosaur Waste Basket

Another article about Megalosaurs: Megalosaur Miscellany

In 1964, Dr Welles led another palaeontological expedition to the site and was fortunate to find another specimen, this time with the skull virtually intact.  Noting the double crests on the ridge of the snout, Dr Welles renamed this animal Dilophosaurus (means double crested lizard) and completed his description.

The Dilophosaurus Skull from the 1964 Expedition

Picture Credit: University of California

The picture shows the Dilophosaurus skull that enabled Dr Welles to classify this animal as a separate genus and to give this animal the name “double crested lizard”.  The right side of the skull is shown with the snout facing to the right of the screen.  The red arrow at the top is pointing to the distinctive crest, whilst the lower arrow indicates the relatively loose attachment of the premaxilla to the maxilla and the resulting distinctive kink in the upper jaw of this dinosaur.

The two, thin and bony semi-circular crests on the head were too fragile to be used as weapons.  Perhaps they were different between males and females and indicated sexual dimorphism.  Or perhaps they were brightly coloured and used by males in displays to win females.  From the size of the orbit in the skull (the large hole in the middle of the skull), it can be deduced that eyesight was an important sense for this dinosaur.  Studies have shown that dinosaurs may have had good colour vision so colour may have been very important to these particular dinosaurs, perhaps to display social status in the group or dominance over rivals.

These factors where considered when the artists and sculptors came to redesign the colour palette on their Dilophosaurus.  They chose a bright red colour scheme perhaps reflecting the importance of colour in the lives of this aggressive carnivore.

The Dilophosaurus Model from Bullyland

“Double Crested Lizard”

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To view the scale model of Dilophosaurus: Dinosaur Toys for Girls – Dinosaur Models

The jaws of this dinosaur were quite light and delicate, with many sharp, but slender teeth.  Some scientists have suggested that the jaws were too light-weight to cope with struggling prey and that Dilophosaurus may have been a scavenger feeding on the kills of other predators.  This was taken into consideration when painting this new version of Dilophosaurus, living in a mainly green and brown world (Dilophosaurus evolved long before the first flowering plants), a red colouration would have made this animal stand out.  It could be seen from a long distance and being an aggressive red colour perhaps Dilophosaurus could have put up an impressive display.  This may have been enough to drive off a larger predator from a carcase.

Interestingly, the colour red has a very peculiar characteristic when seen on people or animals from a distance.  It becomes very difficult to determine individuals in a group and to estimate numbers.  Hence the British army’s adoption of red for their uniforms right up until the end of the 19th Century.  The “Red Coats” numbers could not be counted accurately by the enemy from a distance.  The strength of the British forces could not be estimated easily because of the colour of their jackets.  This factor was also considered when choosing the colour for the Dilophosaurus model.  If we assume that Dilophosaurus lived in packs (the close proximity of the fossils found indicate this), then a large predator could be confused and uncertain as to the number of Dilophosaurs approaching from a distance.  Rather than face an unknown number of Dilophosaurs, the carnivore may opt for the safer option of abandoning its kill, thus providing the brightly coloured Dilophosaurus with an easy meal.

The unusual double crests running along the snout of this dinosaur inspired artists to add Dilophosaurus to the poster on weird and wonderful dinosaurs.  Here too, they have given Dilophosaurus a bright and colourful appearance.

Weird and Wonderful Reptiles as Illustrated on the Weird and Wonderful Dinosaurs Poster

Another weird and wonderful dinosaur

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To view the poster and books on dinosaurs: Dinosaur Books for Kids

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