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Scientists Rebuilt the Brain of One of the Oldest Dinosaurs

The scientists were able to discover information that was "previously unseen in the fossil."

Thanks to new technologies, scientists are able to learn more about dinosaurs, in this case about one that lived more than 200 million years ago. A new study involving the digital reconstruction of the brain belonging to one of the earliest dinosaurs has shed new light on its eating habits and agility.

Scientists from the University of Bristol have digitally rebuilt the brain of Thecodontosaurus and discovered information that was "previously unseen in the fossil," per the press release.

The research was published in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society.

The little dinosaur was much different

Thecodontosaurus, better known as the Bristol dinosaur, was around the size of a large dog and lived in the Late Triassic age. Its fossils were discovered in the 1800s in Bristol, hence its widely-known name.

The dinosaur was long assumed to have walked on all fours and fed only on plants. After two centuries, scientists have now been able to deploy imaging software to get new information from the fossil without damaging it.

Scientists Rebuilt the Brain of One of the Oldest Dinosaurs
Source: Antonio Ballell and colleagues/University of Bristol

The researchers used advanced imaging and 3D modeling technique by using 3D models generated from CT scans. Antonio Ballell, the lead author of the study, said: "Even though the actual brain is long gone, the software allows us to recreate brain and inner ear shape via the dimensions of the cavities left behind." 

The results

He further explained, "Our analysis showed parts of the brain associated with keeping the head stable and eyes and gaze steady during movement were well-developed. This could also mean Thecodontosaurus could occasionally catch prey, although its tooth morphology suggests plants were the main component of its diet."

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Scientists Rebuilt the Brain of One of the Oldest Dinosaurs
Source: Antonio Ballell and colleagues/University of Bristol

All this was seen thanks to the details of the floccular lobes that were shown in its brain cast, per CNN.

SEE ALSO: ASTEROID IMPACT, NOT VOLCANOES, DROVE DINOSAURS TO EXTINCTION, SAYS NEW STUDY

By reconstructing the inner ears, the researchers were able to estimate how well it could hear. It turns out, its maximum hearing frequency was relatively high, and was probably able to recognize varied squeaks and honks from different animals.

Professor Mike Benton, the study co-author, concluded, "It’s great to see how new technologies are allowing us to find out even more about how this little dinosaur lived more than 200 million years ago."

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