Corythosaurus (meaning “Corinthian helmet reptile”) is a genus of large lambeosaurine hadrosaur. It lived during the middle Campanian age of the late Cretaceous period, about 77 to 75.7 million years ago. It is named for its crest, which when viewed from the side resembles the plume of a traditional Corinthian helmet. This dinosaur is well-known due to the discovery of many skulls and skeletons; more than twenty skulls have been discovered, and the remains of both adults and juveniles have been found.
The first Corythosaurus remains were found in Red Deer River, Alberta in 1911 by American paleontologist Barnum Brown. The fossil was secured by autumn of the following year, and as it was uncovered, it was found to be almost complete (missing only part of the tail and forelimbs) and included most of the skin. This revealed that the animal’s skin was covered in polygonal scales. By 1914, another specimen was discovered by Brown along with Peter Kaisen. That year, Brown named the species Corythosaurus casuarius; its genus name refers to the crest’s resemblance to a Corinthian helmet’s plume, while the species name means “cassowary” in reference to the flightless bird which has a similar crest on its head.
By this time, other excellent specimens had been discovered. The two best fossils, found by Charles H. Sternberg in 1912, were lost on December 6, 1916 when the Canadian S. S. Mount Temple carrying them to Arthur Smith Woodward in the United Kingdom was sunk by the German merchant raider SMS Möwe in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Fortunately, many other well-preserved specimens were found since.
Up to seven species of Corythosaurus had been named throughout history, with a great many described during the 1920s and 1930s. Most of these were found in a 1975 study by Peter Dodson to be differences in age and sex rather than species, and today only two species are believed to have existed. These are the original C. casuarius named by Barnum Brown, and the slightly smaller and lower-crested C. intermedius, which was named by William Parker in 1923. This second species lived slightly later in time than C. casuarius; however, not all paleontologists agree that it is a separate species at all.
By the early 1990s, International Genetic Technologies had succeeded in obtaining ancient DNA belonging to Corythosaurus casuarius from Cretaceous amber samples. The company had managed to reconstruct a nearly-complete genome of the animal, with viability at 97%. However, none were living at the time the research facility was abandoned in 1995. InGen would resume research under the wing of Masrani Global Corporation during late 1998 and early 1999, but as this work was in violation of the Gene Guard Act of 1997, the existence of living Corythosaurus was kept under wraps until their eventual rediscovery in the early 2000s. Despite an initially large population size, it is believed that this animal is currently extinct again due to poor ecological management practices performed by InGen.
This is among the larger hadrosaurs, reaching lengths of 7 to 7.5 meters (23 to 25 feet) in length with the largest animals growing to around 10 meters (33 feet) long. When standing upright, it may be around 4 meters (13 feet) tall. Its weight has been estimated to be 3,628.74 kilograms (four U.S. short tons). This makes it one of the largest known hadrosaurs. Among de-extinct hadrosaurs in particular it is exceeded in size by Parasaurolophus and Edmontosaurus.
Like most lambeosaurine hadrosaurs, Corythosaurus can easily be distinguished by the crest on its head. This crest is made up mostly of its nasal bones and forms a thin semicircle which reaches its highest point above the eye orbits. Its narial passages extend inward through this crest from its nostrils, entering two separate chambers before connecting in a single larger one to continue on into the respiratory system. The crest acted as a resonating chamber to amplify the animal’s cries, as well as being useful in pushing foliage aside as it traveled through forested regions. Its crest shape differs slightly between InGen specimens and those found in fossils; the crests of InGen Corythosaurus protrude slightly over the snout, whereas in fossils the crest rises smoothly backward from the snout and does not protrude forward at all.
The senses of this dinosaur are believed to be excellent; its cries and bright colors in particular necessitate superior vision and hearing. Its sense of smell is believed to be similarly heightened, possibly owing to its elaborate crest.
It has a typical beaked mouth found in many hadrosaurs, often compared to a duck’s bill. At the back of the jaw are hundreds of interlocking teeth. Its mouth is narrower than that of some other hadrosaurs, suggesting a selective diet. The rest of its body is fairly typical of a hadrosaur: it has a narrow build, with its tail making up about half of its length, and has shorter forelimbs than hind limbs. The hands have four digits, which help support its weight and select food while eating; it walks on all fours, but typically rises onto two legs when running. The feet have three developed toes and the legs are quite strong.
The skin of this dinosaur is covered in polygonal scales, separated by sets of smaller shield-like scales. On its underbelly, the scales are more conical in shape. It is one of the more vibrantly colored of InGen’s dinosaurs, with dark yellow or olive green mottling on its dorsal side separated from its creamy tan ventral side by thick, dark gray lining. The yellow mottling disappears partway down the tail and is then overtaken by the mottled tan color of the underside. Its head crest is its brightest feature, appearing in adults as a rosy-colored structure patterned with light gray streaks.
Both adult and juvenile Corythosaurus have been observed. As fossils suggest, the crest begins as a smaller feature on this animal and becomes larger as the creature ages. The coloration also becomes gradually more vibrant, acting as an indicator of sexual maturity. Fossil evidence suggests that the crest began to grow in when the animal reached half its adult size.
Its normal growth rates are unknown, but a population which was produced in 1998 or 1999 had reached sexual maturity by 2001. The dinosaurs had bred and were accompanied by juveniles that appeared to be adolescent, suggesting that their growth rate is naturally rapid (though the adults had most likely been grown under the influence of hormonal supplements provided by Masrani Global Corporation personnel).
Earlier scripts for The Lost World: Jurassic Park describe this animal originally being bred between March and October of 1989, with four out of nine animals surviving to maturity by 1993. This means that the animals, prior to the film’s script being altered, reached adult size in four years. They were likely still under the influence of artificial growth hormones in order to become skeletally mature over such a short period of time.
Male Corythosaurus can be told apart by their larger crests, though the difference is only slight. It has been suggested that the more vibrantly-colored animals are males, since bright colors are a common trait in males of many animals including dinosaurs.
While this creature is able to traverse forested land by using its crest to push foliage aside, it largely prefers open fields where it can graze on shrubs and isolated groups of trees. Its habitat is chiefly flat, often situated in valleys between hills or mountains.
The game Jurassic World: Evolution depicts it requiring 6,600 square meters of grassland and 4,000 square meters of wetland in its habitat.
While Corythosaurus was planned to appear in Jurassic Park, InGen did not have any living specimens on the island at the time of the 1993 incident. There were DNA samples and preserved embryos ready for use. The animal did not appear on any official maps of the island or in any of the planned attractions; presumably, it would have lived in the herbivore paddocks alongside Parasaurolophus and Brachiosaurus.
These animals would eventually arrive to Isla Nublar sometime between September 2004 and the end of May 2005, a time during which all of Isla Sorna‘s surviving dinosaurs were supposedly relocated to Isla Nublar for their own wellbeing. It is not currently known how many animals were actually brought to the island, or how long the species persisted. As none were on exhibit in Jurassic World by 2014, any that remained were likely maintained in habitats located in Sector 5 in the northern region of the island. Following an incident on December 22, 2015, the park was abandoned and these dinosaurs could roam freely on the island, if any remained alive. A report published by the Dinosaur Protection Group on February 4, 2018 heavily implies that the animal had become extinct by that date.
By the time Hurricane Clarissa struck the Muertes Archipelago, InGen had succeeded in reconstructing 97% of the C. casuarius genome. Sometime before 1993, they were able to at least determine what the animal looked and behaved like in life; it is unknown how successful any attempts to clone the dinosaur were. However, they were able to create four viable Herrerasaurus by 1993 using a genome with only 60% viability, so Corythosaurus certainly could have been cloned by that time. Nonetheless, there were no Corythosaurus living on Isla Sorna by the time it was abandoned in 1995, and no mentions of living specimens prior to this point in time were mentioned in a 1997 InGen report.
Around one hundred days after the 1998 purchase of InGen by Masrani Global Corporation, research and development on Isla Sorna resumed (possibly without the knowledge of CEO Simon Masrani). This research was in direct violation of the 1997 Gene Guard Act, which prohibited further attempts at de-extinction; InGen succeeded in cloning Corythosaurus, along with three other dinosaur species. Within nine months, these animals were abandoned to survive on their own.
Corythosaurus was far and away their biggest success: as of July 18, 2001, there were at least seventy-six adults or subadults living in the island’s western grassland. In the afternoon of the same day, a group of at least thirty-four adults and one juvenile were seen at a location farther northeast, near the Embryonics, Administration, and Laboratories Compound. If these animals were a separate group from the herd seen earlier in the day, there would have been at least 111 Corythosaurus on Isla Sorna as of July 18. This would make them the most common dinosaur on the island, excepting native bird species.
By 2004, Isla Sorna’s dinosaur population had become too great for the island’s ecosystem to support. The ensuing ecological catastrophe was no doubt hastened by the presence of (at a bare minimum estimate) more than seventy Corythosaurus, each of the adults weighing over a ton, feeding on vast amounts of vegetation. Their own population likely suffered as they ate nearly all the food available to them on the island; the effects of overgrazing could already be observed in some parts of the island by 2001.
Throughout late 2004 and early 2005, Masrani Global Corporation removed Corythosaurus and other dinosaurs from Isla Sorna for safekeeping on Isla Nublar. Supposedly, none remain on the island today, though the area is still restricted to the public.
A native North American dinosaur, this species first appeared about seventy-seven million years ago. It inhabited the central northern region of the continent, near the Western Interior Seaway, and appears to have preferred forested regions where its food existed in abundance. The species Corythosaurus casuarius seems to have given rise to a later species, slightly smaller in size, called C. intermedius; it became extinct close to 75 million years ago. The exact cause is not known, but environmental changes are the usual impetus for a species going extinct. Many millions of years later, it was cloned using novel genetic engineering techniques by scientists in the late twentieth century.
Between 1997 and 2018, both the Muertes Archipelago and Isla Nublar saw the effects of poaching take hold of some of their dinosaur populations. While it is believed that by 2018 no Corythosaurus remained alive, and that as of 2004 or 2005 there were none left on Isla Sorna, it is entirely possible that poachers may have removed some to unknown locations elsewhere in the world. Whether any still exist is, therefore, also unknown.
Behavior and Ecology
Corythosaurus is a diurnal animal, meaning it is chiefly active during the day.
Diet and Feeding Behavior
Corythosaurus is an herbivore, and unlike many extinct animals, its diet is actually known from fossil remains. One specimen’s stomach cavity contains fossilized remains of conifer needles, fruits, twigs, and seeds; it is believed that it primarily feeds on soft fruits and leaves. Its narrow beak enables it to select the foods it likes while passing over those it finds distasteful. Once it has chosen its food, it uses the hundreds of teeth in its rear mouth to chew its food before swallowing it.
Jurassic World: Evolution portrays it as preferring rotten wood as a food source, though it will also feed on conifers, palms, and ginkgoes. It has a difficult time digesting tougher plants, such as grasses, horsetails, and cycads; it may be harmed by feeding on these. Additionally, it may sometimes feed on bracken ferns, which can be toxic when consumed in larger quantities.
Like many herbivorous dinosaurs, Corythosaurus enjoys the company of its own kind and can be found forming large herds. Its herd size can exceed seventy animals in the wild, making it one of the most gregarious known dinosaurs. Their herd structure has no known hierarchy, but the animals look out for one another and protect juveniles by keeping them to the center of the herd where they are less vulnerable. If one animal spots danger, it will vocalize to the others, and the entire herd will stampede away from the threat.
In spite of their merely average intelligence, social behavior also satisfies an emotional need for Corythosaurus. The game Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis states that these animals are playful in nature, and in its spiritual sequel Jurassic World: Evolution this dinosaur will become stressed if kept in groups of less than two. However, it will only form herds of up to thirteen animals in this game, which is considerably less than the huge herds known from the film canon proper.
All dinosaurs lay eggs, and those of hadrosaurs are thoroughly studied. The eggs of these types of dinosaurs are rounder than those of theropods, and take between three and six months to hatch; the exact details of Corythosaurus reproduction are unclear. In terms of reproductive organs, it most likely has a cloaca, similar to that of Parasaurolophus. Males probably attract females using their crests, with the larger and brighter crests being considered more attractive. These animals’ excellent senses of smell, hearing, and vision likely help them select the best mates. It has been suggested that the wildly different crest shapes among hadrosaurs help them tell their own species apart from others, since it is unknown if different hadrosaur species are genetically similar enough to crossbreed. If they can, it is unlikely that the offspring would be fertile.
While reproduction has not been observed directly in Corythosaurus, behavioral observation as well as fossil evidence suggests that hadrosaurs in general build large ground nests and lay large quantities of eggs which are arranged in circular patterns. Since they are so large, they probably incubate their eggs using vegetation and soil, because they are unable to sit on their eggs safely. Most dinosaur species exhibit parental care, although most also have fairly high infant mortality rates.
A juvenile was seen during the 2001 incident on Isla Sorna; while due to the nature of the incident no clear observations could be taken, the juvenile was seen keeping to the center of its herd where it would be best protected from predators. The adults used their bulk to form protective barriers between the juvenile and the threats outside.
Due to the lack of observations on this species, its methods of communication are poorly known. It vocalizes with low-pitched cries that can be easily differentiated from those of other hadrosaurs due to the unique shape of its crest. This helps it identify members of its own species using its excellent sense of hearing. When frightened, it can be heard making loud whooping noises to alert others to danger, and sometimes makes higher-pitched howling sounds. Its distinct bright coloration, particularly the red shades of the crest, serves as visual identifiers.
In Jurassic World: Evolution, it makes softer groaning noises when socializing.
Not only is Corythosaurus social among its own kind, it is known to form large multi-species herds; it differentiates its own species using its unique appearance and vocalizations. Its typical neighbors include the fellow hadrosaur Parasaurolophus, though it can be seen alongside Stegosaurus, Brachiosaurus, Triceratops, and various species of birds. Other herbivores known from its territory on Isla Sorna between 1998 and 2005 included Ankylosaurus, as well as possibly Iguanodon and Diplodocus. According to Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis, its preferred companion is Edmontosaurus, another hadrosaur.
Carnivores known from the territory it inhabited on Isla Sorna were also numerous. The tiny Compsognathus was likely not a major threat to adults, but the pterosaur Pteranodon was known to range over that area and could have preyed on juveniles. Adults would have been threatened by Velociraptor, Tyrannosaurus and possibly Carnotaurus, and when near the water, would have encountered Ceratosaurus and the enormous Spinosaurus.
As with all dinosaurs, it is affected by diseases and parasites. In the Cretaceous period, it would have been targeted by hematophagous parasites such as gravid female mosquitoes, which drank its blood; modern species may have affected it in similar ways. The game Jurassic World: Evolution portrays it as particularly susceptible to the common cold.
The huge herds of Corythosaurus would have had a massive impact on Isla Sorna. While these herds were observed in the western part of the island in July of 2001, it is very likely that they would have traveled far and wide across Isla Sorna in search of enough food to fuel their bodies. As the island is relatively small, these animals would have provided serious competition for food after only a short time. While their relationships with the other species on the island were peaceable when observed in 2001, it is very likely that these interactions would have become more aggressive as food on the island declined. With little in the way of self-defense aside from size and numbers, Corythosaurus would have faced stiff competition for food from heavier, more armored herbivores.
While this is a fairly well-known North American dinosaur, it is not as popularly depicted as Parasaurolophus and is sometimes treated as an alternative to the latter in dinosaur-themed media. Still, it is common in paleoart and childrens’ dinosaur books, as well as animated films. Like most dinosaurs it is not established enough in the public eye to have gained any specific cultural symbolic meanings.
Because this dinosaur was bred in secret and never exhibited to the public, not very much is known about how it fares in captivity or what its needs are. As a social animal, it would need to be kept in herds, making it potentially expensive; it would also require large amounts of feed due to its body size. On the other hand, it has vibrant colors and unique social calls that would make it appealing to tourists. As it can live on grasslands, visibility is an easy task to accomplish; had InGen ever exhibited it in Jurassic World, the Gyrosphere Valley would have suited its needs well.
An advantage to keeping this animal is its friendly behavior toward other species. Similarly to Parasaurolophus, it tolerates the company of other herbivorous animals and is happy to herd with other hadrosaurs. This makes it possible to integrate Corythosaurus into multi-species exhibits safely.
The first specimen of this dinosaur to be discovered, found in the Belly River Group by Barnum Brown, is notable for including well-preserved skin impressions which show the outline of the body at the time the animal died. This gave paleontologists new information about what the skin of hadrosaurs looked like, allowing for more informed reconstructions. Several very good specimens have been recovered from Canadian rocks, including both adults and juveniles. The discovery of juvenile skeletons gives insight into the ontogeny of Corythosaurus and its close lambeosaur relatives. Research into the crest morphology in the 1970s brought to light the idea that crest shape in lambeosaurine hadrosaurs might be linked to age and sex, and different shapes did not always indicate different species. This resulted in the number of recognized Corythosaurus species being reduced from as many as seven to just one or two.
In some InGen documentation, Corythosaurus was incorrectly labeled “Carinthosaurus,” a genus which has never existed. This error appears in Section 1.3 of the InGen asset catalogue dated December 7, 1996, but is corrected in Section 2.1 of the same document. Since its de-extinction, Corythosaurus has provided some limited information on hadrosaur behavior, but it was scientifically neglected by InGen before probably dying out prior to 2018. It remains a valuable addition to InGen’s genetic library.
InGen under Masrani Global Corporation first cloned this dinosaur in the late 1990s, sometime between late 1998 and mid-1999. It was mass-produced and administered growth-boosting substances to accelerate its maturation process, leading to a herd of unsustainable size being introduced to Isla Sorna and then abandoned in 1999. At the time, heavy restrictions on genetic engineering and a blanket ban on de-extinction were in place due to the Gene Guard Act of 1997, making the creation of Corythosaurus illegal. When a civilian incursion on Isla Sorna threatened to reveal these violations as living Corythosaurus were seen, Masrani Global Corporation bribed government officials to bury the survivors’ testimonies and keep their company’s crimes hidden.
The violations finally came to light in early 2016 during an inquiry into bioethical misconduct by InGen. Along with three other species (Ceratosaurus, Ankylosaurus, and Spinosaurus), this dinosaur was used as evidence to make a case that InGen had broken the law in the 1990s. Data on the violations, including the illegally-bred species, was obtained by the anonymous hacker called JUR@55!_H@K3R in the form of leaked digital records.
A few years later, Isla Nublar’s fate was brought into the public theater due to volcanic activity threatening the island ecosystem. By this time, Corythosaurus may have already become extinct. While it was largely absent from the Dinosaur Protection Group‘s lobbying efforts, it was used to highlight the legal violations InGen had committed and was included in a list of Isla Nublar’s de-extinct animals. Its name was printed in red, like those that were confirmed extinct, suggesting that it was already gone by early 2018; the deaths of these animals were described by the DPG as examples of cruelty through negligence.
The fact that Corythosaurus was produced illegally in such large numbers in the late 1990s suggests that InGen believed it to be quite valuable, most likely as a future park attraction. Unfortunately, it was abandoned and then habitually neglected for many years after, so its potential as a tourist draw was never tested. It is also a source of novel biopharmaceuticals, though these resources are also untapped. In order to determine what medical benefits can be gained from this dinosaur, it will first have to be studied again.
InGen used this dinosaur to study their growth-accelerating techniques, which were later used in Jurassic World to produce physically mature animals at record speeds.
Hadrosaurs in general have a reputation for being friendly, playful, and gentle creatures. While it is true that they are not aggressive by nature, they are still large enough that even a playful interaction can be dangerous to a human. An adult Corythosaurus can weigh up to four tons and can move faster than most humans even at this weight. At least one incident involving Corythosaurus threatening humans has been reported; during the 2001 incident on Isla Sorna, a herd of hadrosaurs stampeded due to predators nearby, putting several humans in danger of trampling. There were no casualties predominantly as a matter of luck. The people involved were advised by paleontologist Dr. Alan Grant to run into the herd to lose pursuing Velociraptors, but this was a last-ditch desperate strategy and should generally not be replicated.
While a stampeding Corythosaurus will be more concerned with getting away from danger than crushing anyone, it is extremely dangerous to be in its path. When in a panic, they have been known to push and shove other animals in an effort to avoid threats; if you happen to be struck, you will be seriously injured or killed. Even if you survive being trampled, you will now be vulnerable to whatever has frightened the hadrosaurs.
The best way to keep safe is to give them a wide berth. If you must pass near them, keep an eye out for any behaviors that might indicate nervousness, and do not startle the animals (for example, by making sudden movements or loud noises). If they begin to stampede and you are in the way, run as quickly as you can diagonally, aiming between the direction the herd is moving and the nearest shelter. This will get you out of their way while maximizing the amount of time you have to get clear. If it is impossible to get out of the way, aim for any objects you can hide behind or climb up while they pass, such as trees or large boulders. Vehicles may provide limited shelter if they are available, but most will be easily toppled by animals that cannot swerve hard enough to avoid a collision, and may be crushed by animals clambering over them in their efforts to flee.
Should you get caught up in a stampede and no shelter is available, you may be able to increase your odds of survival by heading for the middle of the herd. This is where the juveniles are, and the adults will try to keep them safe by forming physical barriers with their bodies. Adult animals will not usually cut through the safety of the juveniles’ shelter within the herd, reducing your chances of being trampled by one of the big hadrosaurs. However, do not rely on this for long. As soon as you can, get out of the herd. If the already-panicked adults see you near their young, they may attack you.
Corythosaurus itself is currently extinct, but other hadrosaurs such as Parasaurolophus are still living. This advice is useful for any hadrosaur, and should be kept in mind when traveling through grasslands and forests where they live. The best survival advice is still to keep your distance from any wild dinosaurs you encounter, even ones with friendly reputations like these.
Behind the Scenes
Corythosaurus has appeared in storyboards and concept art for most of the films in the franchise, despite appearing only once. Its first appearance is on a mural in the Visitors’ Centre in Jurassic Park; it would appear in an older script of The Lost World: Jurassic Park and feature as a skeleton in concept art of the raptor nests. Despite this, it would not appear in the film; it can be seen briefly on the specimen packet used by Roland Tembo. On both the script and this prop, the incorrect name “Carinthosaurus” is used, and Tembo can be heard attempting to pronounce the name during the film while identifying a Parasaurolophus, which replaced Corythosaurus in the final film. The deleted opening scene, in which a hadrosaur carcass is found by a Japanese fishing vessel, was initially scripted to feature a corythosaur carcass rather than a parasaur as in the finalized but still deleted version. In the original script, Corythosaurus is said by an InGen staffer to Peter Ludlow to have been at Version 3.09, with nine bred between March and October of 1989, four of which reached maturity. The existence of the carcass would have made Ludlow aware of Site B’s existence in this earlier version of the film.
The dinosaur would finally make its appearance in 2001’s Jurassic Park ///, where it was added at the behest of director Joe Johnston and visual effects supervisor Jim Mitchell. They had wanted to increase the diversity of dinosaurs in the herd scenes, so the Parasaurolophus model was used as the base to create this dinosaur. An adult an juvenile model were both created; the Corythosaurus was at one point going to appear during the riverside herd scene along with other dinosaurs, but ultimately did not make this part of the film.