Fossils Highlight Rapid Brain Growth In Dinosaurs
May 21, 2013

Fossils Reveal Rapid Brain Growth In Baby Dinosaurs

April Flowers for - Your Universe Online

A new study led by the University of Bristol´s Stephan Lautenschlager, a postgraduate Geology researcher, has demonstrated how the brain and inner ear developed rapidly in young dinosaurs.

Lautenschlager collaborated with Tom Hübner from the Niedersächsische Landesmuseum in Hannover, Germany“¯to pick the brains of 150-million-year-old dinosaurs. They studied two different fossils of the Jurassic dinosaur Dysalotosaurus lettowvorbecki — a small, plant-eating dinosaur, which lived 150 million years ago, in what is now present-day Tanzania. The two specimens were of a juvenile of approximately three years of age and an adult specimen of more than 12 years. The results of their study were published online in the Journal of Evolutionary Biology.

Lautenschlager explained, "The two different growth stages of Dysalotosaurus provided a unique opportunity to study their brain, and how it developed during the growth of the animal."

The team used high-resolution CT scanning and 3D computer imaging to reconstruct and visualize the brain and inner ear of the Dysalotosaurus lettowvorbecki.

"Well-preserved fossil material, which can be used to reconstruct the brain anatomy, is usually rare. Thus, we were fortunate to have different growth stages available for our study,” said Hübner.

The research team examined the brain and inner ear anatomy, and found that the Dysalotosaurus brain underwent large-scale changes during growth. This was most likely a response to environmental and metabolic requirements. Important parts responsible for hearing and cognitive processes, however, were already well developed in the younger fossil.

Lautenschlager said, "Our study shows that the brain was already well-developed in the young dinosaurs and adapted perfectly to interact with their environment and other individuals."

The researchers believe that the study has important implications for understanding how parts of the brain developed in dinosaurs. They suggest, though, that further research is needed to understand if the pattern of brain development in individual dinosaurs is also reflected in a large scale trend during the more than 150 million years of dinosaur evolution.