science

Groundbreaking reconstruction reveals surprising insights into early dinosaur brains, eating habits and agility

Braincase and endocast from Thecodontosaurus antiquus. From brain fossil CT scans, 3D models of the brain and the interior have been created and studied. Credit: Created by Antonio Palil with BioRender.com, Thecodontosaurus silhouette from PhyloPic.org

The pioneering reconstructions of the brain belonging to one of the first dinosaurs to roam Earth shed new light on its potential diet and ability to move quickly.

Research led by Dr. University of Bristol, I used advanced imaging and 3D modeling techniques to reconstruct a brain Thecodontosaurus, Known as the Bristol dinosaur due to its origins in the UK city. Paleontologists found Thecodontosaurus It may have eaten the meat, unlike its giant long-necked relatives of later Diplodox And the BrontosaurusThat only feeds on plants.

Antonio Palil, lead author of the study published today in Journal of Zoology of the Linian Society, He said, “Our analysis Thecodontosaurus’ The brain revealed many cool features, some of which were very surprising. Whereas its late relatives were moving heavy on all fours, our findings indicate that this species may have walked on two legs and were sometimes carnivores.

Thecodontosaurus He lived late Triassic It was about 205 million years old and was the size of a large dog. Although his fossils were discovered in the nineteenth century, many of which are carefully preserved at the University of Bristol, it was only very recently that scientists were able to publish imaging software to extract new information without destroying it. 3D models were generated from CT scans by digitally extracting bone from the rock, identifying anatomical details about his brain and inner ear that had not previously been present in the fossil.

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Endocast Evolution in Sauropodomorphs

The endocast develops in the photosopodomorphs, the closest relatives of Thecodontosaurus. This group of dinosaurs underwent important changes in the shape of their brain and inner ear during their evolution, which may have been related to various aspects of their biology. Credit: Antonio Palil

“Although the actual brain has long since disappeared, the program allows us to recreate the shape of the brain and inner ear across the dimensions of the cavities left behind. Thecodontosaurus Beautifully preserved, so we compared it to other dinosaurs, identifying common features and some of their own ThecodontosaurusAntonio said. Her brain template even showed details of the flat lobes, located in the back of the brain, which are important for achieving balance. Her large size indicates that she was biped. This structure is also associated with controlling balance and eye and neck movements, suggesting Thecodontosaurus He was relatively agile and could maintain a steady gaze while moving at speed. “

although Thecodontosaurus She is known for being relatively young and lean, and her diet has been discussed.

“Our analysis showed that parts of the brain associated with keeping the head and eyes stable and the gaze fixed during movement were well developed,” said Antonio, a PhD student at the University of Bristol’s School of Geosciences. Thecodontosaurus They could catch prey occasionally, although the shape of the teeth indicates that plants were the main component of their diet. He may have adopted carnivorous habits. “

The researchers were also able to reconstruct the inner ears, which allowed them to estimate how good their hearing was compared to other dinosaurs. His hearing frequency was relatively high, indicating a kind of social complexity – the ability to recognize the varied squeaks of different animals.

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Professor Mike Benton, a co-author of the study, said: “It’s great to see how new technologies allow us to learn more about how this little dinosaur lived more than 200 million years ago.

“We are starting to work on Thecodontosaurus In 1990, it’s the logo for the Bristol Dinosaur Project, an educational outreach scheme where students go to talk about science at local schools. We are very fortunate to have many well-preserved fossils of an important dinosaur here in Bristol. This has helped us understand many aspects of biology ThecodontosaurusHowever, there are still many questions about this species that have yet to be explored. “

Reference: “Brain, Brain, and Paleobiology of the Basal Saurapodomorph Thecodontosaurus antiquus” by Antonio Palill, J. Logan King, James M. Ninan, Emily J. Rayfield and Michael J. Benton, 14 December 2020, Journal of Zoology of the Linian Society.
DOI: 10.1093 / zoolinnean / zlaa157

This research was funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), the Leverhulme Trust, and the Royal Society.

Phil Schwartz

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