STL Science Center

STL Science Center

04 June 2011

A lot of pictures!

©Alain Beneteau (
Cryolophosaurus, like any animal with crests that is long extinct and thus has no living color guide or there is no knowledge of their actual skin, is going to have some fantastic representations created by artists and scientists alike. This very nice study by Alain Beneteau looks a little bird-like, however, I really enjoy the intelligence in the eyes there as well as the eyespots on the crest. It is very reminiscent of the peacock and how he attempts to woo the peahen with his wonderful feathers. I think Mr. Beneteau does fantastic work in all honesty and I have another of his Cryolophosaurus pieces that I am going to share. However, the other notably fantastic bits of this study are the positioning of the arms, as they are held as paleontologists believe they were held; palms facing in toward each other. Additionally, there is some feathering added in here that, while some may question it, I find very fitting and appropriate for the birdlike state that this animal has been illustrated in here.

©Alain Beneteau
Beneteau's other illustration to be shown here depicts some playful interaction between a pair of Cryolophosaurus. Playful is how I see this at least, others may see rivals contesting one another or something else of that nature. It is obviously a nighttime scene on a rocky coastline in what we would now consider Antarctica. The fact that Beneteau depicts these large carnivores as so lithe and agile that they can jump into the air and down from a rock outcropping, respectively, denotes youth and sprightliness to most paleontologists because a large predator (the type fossil weighed in at around 1,030 lbs and is thought to be sub-adult) would not be much for jumping and sprightly activities; imagine an artist drawing a T-Rex jumping after animals hiding in trees. In fact, most animals shown jumping in documentaries or other artistic impressions of paleo-life are typically not large theropods with, to my knowledge, Eustreptospondylus being the only other lithe and large predator I have seen so depicted on film. Typically this fun, energetic, lively display of running and jumping portrayed in Beneteau's illustration here is saved for infants and Dromaeosaurs. Note, however, the lack of proto-feathering and the more earth-toned coloration of the crest in this illustration.
©Craig Brown (
The crest of this animal has also been depicted in other ways as well. In Craig Brown's piece here it is seashell shaped, scalloped I suppose, and does not serve any ostentatious purpose. This image leaves no clear purpose hidden in the crest, which is slightly disappointing, but perhaps there was nothing to the crest as far as the peacock is concerned and is simply a species recognition piece. It could be plausible that the reason it existed wasn't entirely sexual, however, it certainly was not for combat either as brittle as it was. Another interesting thing about this image is the tiger striping on the tail. The rest of the body is tiger striped a bluish green on teal but the tail is roughly black and grey, which is quite interesting.

©John Bindon
From a less than ostentatious coloring to an extraordinary lengthening of the crest we come to this illustration of Cryolophosaurus. Bindon's crests are split in half where our previous illustrations have skin folds connecting the two sides of the crest. Additionally the crests are taller, or perhaps it is the angle he created the head inclination at, but these crests do not possess any bird-like beauty to them either. That is not to say that they are not highly visible to predator and prey alike, but that they lack the multitude of coloring which other versions possess. Indeed, it may even be the height of the crests here which would intimidate or intimate relationships with other animals and is therefore another possibility which is very intriguing for us to consider. Is it the height of your crest, the width of your crest or the coloring of your crest which intimidates rivals and prey or creates awe and respect in the opposite sex for these animals? One other aspect that sticks out here is the river delta look to the background with a swampy looking foreground and what appears to be the beginning of a lushly vegetated forest behind the animals. Not many depictions of what Antarctica may have looked like then exist, but this interpretation is very pleasing to the eye and something less alien than some other depictions of the Mesozoic world.

From the artist about this drawing:

"Just a few notes about my choices for the crest design
I made it larger than what the fossil evidence suggests perhaps to indicate that he is a matriarch and his large crest is part of the dominance he might exhibit. Artistically, I wanted it to stand out visually.
Who is to say that the specimen [only one to date I think] is showcasing the full extant of the what that display hardware became. As the fossil is the boney core, one might guess how much of the living horny sheath may have developed to.
The crest halves emerge for the brow and may[likely] have met in the middle or maintained a gap. I chose a gap for design reasons. Literally hundreds of variations would have existed in life at any rate.
An oversight on my part not to at least indicate some kind of colouring display even though this painting was a monochrome of green and paynes grey."
©John Conway (

John Conway's Cryolophosaurus head demands a brief note as well. Here we see a back view of the head and crest. It is clear that this crest has some coloration to it like the first piece from Beneteau, but it is also scalloped like the crest displayed in Craig Brown's artwork. There are no feathered qualities to this head either and the muzzle actually appears dog-like at this angle. In all honesty the eyes appear sad in this version as well and we can see that this animal has fairly large holes for his ears. It's a very nice illustration.

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