Cryolophosaurus is a genus of large theropods known from only a single species Cryolophosaurus ellioti, known from the early Jurassic period of Antarctica. It was about 6.5 metres (21.3 ft) long and 465 kilograms (1,025 lb) in weight, making it one of the largest theropods of its time.
Individuals of this species may have grown even larger, because the only known specimen probably represents a sub-adult. Cryolophosaurus is known from a skull, a femur and other material, the skull and femur of which have caused its classification to vary greatly. The femur possesses many primitive characteristics that have classified Cryolophosaurus as a dilophosaurid or a neotheropod outside of Dilophosauridae and Averostra, where as the skull has many advanced features, leading the genus to be considered a tetanuran, an abelisaurid, a ceratosaur and even an allosaurid. Since its original description, the consensus is that Cryolophosaurus is either a primitive member of the Tetanurae or a close relative of that group.
Cryolophosaurus possessed a distinctive crest on its head that spanned the head from side to side, similar to a Spanish comb. Based on evidence from related species and studies of bone texture, it is thought that this bizarre crest was used for intra-species recognition. The brain of Cryolophosaurus was also more primitive than those of other theropods.
Cryolophosaurus was first excavated from Antarctica’s Early Jurassic, Sinemurian to Pliensbachian aged Hanson Formation, formerly the upper Falla Formation, by paleontologist Dr. William Hammer in 1991. It was the first carnivorous dinosaur to be discovered in Antarctica and the first non-avian dinosaur from the continent to be officially named. The sediments in which its fossils were found have been dated at ~194 to 188 million years ago, representing the Early Jurassic Period.
All known specimens of Cryolophosaurus have been recovered in the Hanson Formation, which is one of only two major dinosaur-bearing rock formations found on the continent of Antarctica. It was discovered in “tuffaceous” siltstone deposited in the Sinemurian to Pliensbachian stage of the Early Jurassic, approximately 194 to 188 million years ago. This geological formation is part of the Victoria Group of the Transantarctic Mountains, which is approximately 4,000 metres (13,000 ft) above sea level. The high altitude of this site supports the idea that early Jurassic Antarctica had forests populated by a diverse range of species, at least along the coast. The Hanson Formation was deposited in an active volcano−tectonic rift system formed during the breakup of Gondwana.