Were dinosaurs smart? We may have the first chance to find out after having found what appears to be an old fossil of a chunk of a dinosaur’s brain.
The fossil, which compares in size to a smartphone, was discovered on a beach in England and has been estimated to be 133 million years old. Details about it are published in a paper online that will soon make its way to the journal Earth System Evolution and Early Life.
Image Credit: Jamie Hiscocks
Experts say it came from a species known as Iguanodon, which was an herbivore that existed from both the Cretaceous and Jurassic periods. They placed the fossil into a mold of the creature’s skull and found that it fit perfectly.
The fossil itself reportedly captures the structure of the soft tissue of the brain, which exhibits folds and wrinkles that we attribute to the exterior of a brain in modern organisms. Finding such fossils, which capture soft tissue structures, is a rare occurrence.
“They’ve been replaced almost cell for cell by mineral crystals, which have taken the shape and morphology of the original structures,” said Alex Liu, a paleontologist who dealt directly with the fossil.
The wrinkles and folds and pits and grooves … the tubular structures that look like blood vessels — those are very difficult to explain in any other way,” Liu continued.
Despite the physical details of the fossil, experts also say it would be hard to estimate the species’ intelligence from the fossil alone. Nevertheless, scans of the fossil have indicated that its structure is very similar to that of birds and crocodilians.
This is the first time scientists have ever had the chance to study a real dinosaur brain fossil directly. This is an interesting window into the past that was life on Earth.
Source: National Geographic