Scientists identify fossilized dinosaur
brain tissue for first time
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[November 01, 2016]
LONDON (Reuters) - British and
Australian scientists have identified an unassuming brown pebble, found
more than a decade ago by a fossil hunter in southern England, as the
first known example of fossilized dinosaur brain tissue.
The fossilized brain, found by fossil enthusiast Jamie Hiscocks near
Bexhill in Sussex in 2004, is most likely from a species similar to
Iguanodon - a large herbivore that lived during the early cretaceous
period, some 133 million years ago.
In a report of their analysis in a Special Publication of the Geological
Society of London, the researchers said they believed this piece of
tissue was so well-preserved because the dinosaur's brain was "pickled"
in a highly acidic and low-oxygen body of water – like a bog or swamp –
shortly after it died.
"The chances of preserving brain tissue are incredibly small, so the
discovery of this specimen is astonishing," said Alex Liu of Cambridge
University's department of earth sciences, who worked on its
Cambridge's David Norman, who led the work, said the finding also raised
questions about the common perception of dinosaurs as animals with very
In typical reptiles, the brain is sausage-shaped and surrounded by a
dense region of blood vessels and sinuses, meaning the brain itself only
takes up about half of the space in the cranial cavity.
The tissue in the fossilized brain, however, appeared to have been
pressed against the skull, the scientists said, raising the possibility
that some dinosaurs had larger brains.
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A handout photograph shows what scientists have identified as the
first known example of fossilised brain tissue from a dinosaur, and
say it resembles the brains of modern-day crocodiles and birds,
released in London, Britain October 27, 2016. University of
Cambridge/Handout via REUTERS
But Norman's team cautioned against drawing any firm conclusions
from this single fossil about dinosaurs' brain size or intelligence
"As we can't see the lobes of the brain itself, we can't say for
sure how big this dinosaur's brain was," he said. "Of course, it's
entirely possible that dinosaurs had bigger brains than we give them
credit for, but we can't tell from this specimen alone."
(Reporting by Kate Kelland; Editing by Richard Balmforth)
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