You might not have known this week’s dino by name, but there’s a good chance you’ve seen it before. From Philly to Ontario to western Kansas, Corythosaurus appears in dozens of museums across North America.
1. CORYTHOSAURUS HAD A TWIGGY DIET.
Corythosaurus is known exclusively from Alberta, where excellent skeletons have cropped up in droves over the past hundred-plus years. An especially awesome individual even has a gut filled with pulverized plant fossils, which reveal that the herbivore gobbled up prehistoric twigs.
2. SCIENTISTS USED TO THINK THAT ITS FEET WERE WEBBED.
Impressions of fleshy pads can be seen around some Corythosaurus feet. Today, we now know that these helped support its massive weight on dry land, but back in the 1910s, they were believed to serve an aquatic function. At first, paleontologists mistook them for membranous webs situated between the toes and fingers. Hence, early drawings (like the one above) wrongly cast Corythosaurus as a duck-like, river-going doggie paddler.
3. THERE’S A LINK BETWEEN CORYTHOSAURUS AND ANCIENT GREEK BATTLE GEAR.
When fossil hunter Barnum Brown (who also discovered T. rex) named this dinosaur in 1914, he felt that its circular head crest looked a lot like the curved helmets worn 2700 years ago by soldiers of Corinth—so he dubbed it Corythosaurus, meaning “Corinthian helmet lizard.”
4. IT MAY HAVE LIKED DAWN AND DUSK.
If you’re a mammal and you know it, roll your eyes. Like all members of this particular class, your sight organs don’t contain buried bony circles called “sclerotic rings.” These can, however, be found in many reptiles, birds, and—yes—dinosaurs. So what’s their function? Though experts aren’t 100 percent sure, they probably play a role in supporting the pupil. But not all pupils are created equal: Nocturnal creatures tend to have proportionally larger ones than diurnal animals.
By comparing the sclerotic rings of prehistoric and modern creatures, paleontologists Lars Schmitz and Ryosuke Motani hope to learn when certain dinosaurs might have been active. The pair’s research suggests that Velociraptor was a night owl, Archaeopteryx enjoyed broad daylight, and Corythosaurus preferred going about its business at sunrise and sunset.
5. NYC’S AMERICAN MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY HAS TWO SKELETONS PRESERVED IN THEIR “DEATH POSES.”
Mounted skeletons are great, but sometimes it’s best to present your fossils as you found them. At this Manhattan landmark, visitors can gaze upon two complete Corythosaurus specimens, both in the same position they held while still in the ground. Neat, huh?
6. THOSE CRESTS STARTED TO FORM DURING ADOLESCENCE.
By comparing multiple juvenile and fully grown Corythosaurus, a 2013 survey found that an individual’s crest didn’t begin development until the dinosaur’s skull had reached fifty percent of its final length.
7. WE KNOW A LOT ABOUT WHAT ITS HIDE LOOKED LIKE.
Certain Corythosaurus skeletons—including one of those AMNH guys we mentioned earlier—came with extensive skin impressions. This tells us that the scales on this animal’s inner thighs were smaller than the ones spread over its sides, which were in turn dwarfed by those coating the tail tip. Shape-wise, most Corythosaurus scales were polygon-esque.
8. DINOS LIKE CORYTHOSAURUS WERE REAL ENDURANCE RUNNERS.
When some hungry tyrannosaur comes charging, what’s a poor, “duck-billed” dinosaur to do? Last year, Scott Persons of the University of Alberta took a good whack at this question. His conclusions lend a bit of credence to Aesop’s whole “slow-and-steady-wins-the-
It turns out that Corythosaurus and its kin (collectively called hadrosaurs) took much shorter strides than did tyrannosaurids like T. rex. This means that, in a brief chase, the predators would have easily caught their hapless victims. But here’s the trade-off: They would also have gotten tired sooner. So what would happen if the pursuit raged on over a vast distance? In this situation, since hadrosaurs expended less energy per step, the plant-eaters could keep going and going like giant Energizer Bunnies long after their attackers got pooped.
9. IT WAS QUITE ADEPT AT HEARING DEEP NOISES.
According to a 2008 CT scan performed by Ohio University, Corythosaurus had a “delicate inner ear” that allowed it to “hear low-frequency” sounds. This correlates with the leading hypothesis about what the animal did with its headgear: Hollow chambers that connected directly to the nasal passages are present inside the crests of Corythosaurus and its closest cousins. Perhaps these apparatuses acted like giant resonating chambers, emitting plangent cries to each other that might travel for miles.
10. ONE CORYTHOSAURUS SPECIES WAS NAMED AFTER AN INCREDIBLY DANGEROUS BIRD.
Do yourself a favor: Never mess with cassowaries. Though they’re usually on the passive side, these 130-pound avians can leap almost seven feet off the ground, hit a dizzying top speed of 31 mph, slash through their enemies with blade-like, 4-inch toe claws, and—unsurprisingly—kill people.
Because it rocks a similar-looking bulge atop its noggin, the best-known Corythosaurus species was christened Corythosaurus casuarius in honor of the southern cassowary’s scientific name, Casuarius casuarius. Apart from nomenclature, these two creatures might also have something else in common.