Corythosaurus (meaning “helmet reptile”) was a genus of large lambeosaurine hadrosaur. It lived during the middle Campanian age of the late Cretaceous period, about 80 to 72 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 late 1993. 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 was 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 have been excellent; its cries and bright colors in particular necessitate superior vision and hearing. Its sense of smell is believed to have been 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 helped it support its weight and select food while eating; it walked on all fours, but typically would rise onto two legs when running. The feet have three developed toes and the legs were quite strong.
The skin of this dinosaur was covered in polygonal scales, separated by sets of smaller shield-like scales. On its underbelly, the scales were more conical in shape. It was 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 disappeared partway down the tail, which was then overtaken by the mottled tan color of the underside. Its head crest was 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. The females depicted in Jurassic World: Evolution show coloration similar to those seen in the film canon proper; it has been suggested that the more vibrantly-colored animals were males.
While this creature was able to traverse forested land by using its crest to push foliage aside, it largely preferred open fields where it could graze on shrubs and isolated groups of trees. Its habitat was 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.
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 was a diurnal animal, meaning it was chiefly active during the day.
Diet and Feeding Behavior
Corythosaurus was 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 fed on soft fruits and leaves. Its narrow beak would have enabled it to select the foods it liked while passing over those it found distasteful; once it had chosen its food, it would have used 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 enjoyed the company of its own kind and could be found forming large herds. Its herd size could exceed seventy animals in the wild, making it one of the most gregarious known dinosaurs. Their herd structure had no known hierarchy, but the animals looked out for one another and would protect juveniles by keeping them to the center of the herd where they were less vulnerable. If one animal spotted danger, it would vocalize to the others, and the entire herd would stampede away from the threat.
In spite of their merely average intelligence, social behavior also satisfied 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 Corythosaurus was no exception. 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 had a cloaca, similar to that of Parasaurolophus. Males probably attracted females using their crests, with the larger and brighter crests being considered more attractive. These animals’ excellent senses of smell, hearing, and vision would help them select the best mates.
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 vocalized with low-pitched cries that could be easily differentiated from those of other hadrosaurs due to the unique shape of its crest. This helped it identify members of its own species using its excellent sense of hearing. When frightened, it could be heard making loud whooping noises to alert others to danger, and sometimes made higher-pitched howling sounds. Its distinct bright coloration, particularly the red shades of the crest, served as visual identifiers.
In Jurassic World: Evolution, it makes softer groaning noises when socializing.
Not only was Corythosaurus social among its own kind, it was known to form large multi-species herds; it differentiated its own species using its unique appearance and vocalizations. Its typical neighbors included the fellow hadrosaur Parasaurolophus, though it could 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, 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 was 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.
Relationship to Humans
Though this animal was planned for exhibition in Jurassic Park, InGen had not yet assigned it a location on the island by the time of the 1993 incident. It would eventually be created in huge numbers between 1998 and 1999, suggesting that InGen had plans to use Corythosaurus in future projects in some important capacity; however, this cloning was actually illegal at the time due to heavy restrictions on genetic engineering through the Gene Guard Act. As a result, the existence of Corythosaurus was of great legal importance, and was among the evidence used to build a case against InGen during a 2016 legal inquiry.
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.
In terms of actual direct interactions, this animal had only infrequent contact with humans. Two herds were observed during the 2001 incident; one of these herds was used as cover by the incident’s survivors at the suggestion of Dr. Alan Grant. The resulting stampede presented immediate harm to the human survivors, and caused minor injuries to some of the dinosaurs; no deaths are known to have occurred, though.
It is currently unknown if this dinosaur was ever exhibited in Jurassic World. If it were, it most likely would have been shown in the Gyrosphere attraction; as of 2014, this animal was not on the list of species advertised in park merchandise or on the website. This suggests that, if any remained, they were not on exhibit and were instead maintained in habitats in Sector 5 along with the other research animals.
Based on Jurassic World: Evolution, the cost for raising a Corythosaurus from fertilization to maturity as of 2018 would be $145,000.
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.