Using bird and alligator brains, researchers inferred that dinosaurs likely sported a similar brains that included the capacity for sophisticated behavior.
Fossils have painted an often colorful and sometimes feathery picture of what dinosaurs looked like in their heyday, but almost nothing is known about the brains of man’s favorite Jurassic beasts.
Drawing from the brain structures of crocodiles and birds, new research provides some clues about the structure of the dinosaur brain.
"No one has ever found a preserved dinosaur brain," said Erich Jarvis, a neurobiologist at Duke University in Durham, N.C., who presented the research with a colleague Tuesday (Nov. 12) here at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience.
The only scraps of evidence available are fossilized molds of dinosaur brains, called endocasts — including one of Tyrannosaurus Rex. But endocasts don’t accurately reflect the brain’s internal structure. For that, Jarvis and his colleagues turned to the brains of dinosaurs’ closest living relatives.
Birds evolved from a group of predatory dinosaurs, overwhelming evidence suggests. Until recently, scientists thought bird brains lacked a true cortex, the outer layer found in mammalian brains where complex cognition takes place. Then, in 2004, a new view emerged of the bird brain — one containing a cortex, or pallium, with distinct subregions. Jarvis and his team added to this new picture, showing that certain brain regions were mirror images of each other.
Meanwhile, the brain of the crocodile, which first emerged on Earth before dinosaurs, has remained essentially a black box, Jarvis said. He and his colleagues set out to fill in the gaps in science’s knowledge of the crocodile’s brain.
The researchers took fresh postmortem brains from American alligators (Alligator mississippiensis), which belong to the same group as crocodiles; sliced them like deli meat; and used a radioactive labeling method to measure which genes were active in the animals’ brains. They compared the brains with those of zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata), as well as turtles and lizards.
The alligator brain proved to be about 85 percent similar to the bird brain, and contained six of seven major regions found in the bird brain. In birds, two of these regions are involved in vocal learning. And like bird brains, the alligator brains had genes that became active in response to sounds from other members of their species.
Based on the structure of bird brains and alligator brains, Jarvis’ team infers that dinosaurs must have sported a similar brain with a cortex and six subdivisions, and with them, the capacity for sophisticated behavior.
"Dinosaurs may be underrated in complexity," Jarvis said.
Two facts: Feathered dinosaurs exist and I am going to fart directly in these people’s faces.
Don’t stoop to their level with the same childish tactics. Prove feathered dinosaurs are fact with evidence and good old fashioned science. There’s infinite evidence out there for it in regards to scientific papers that you can search for and dump upon them. Remember, it’s the difference between literacy and illiteracy with these people. If they don’t want to hear you? Block them.
That’s pretty much been my strategy, but sometimes you just gotta let off some steam laughing at the vapid things feather haters come up with. I agree that if you’re actually discussing feathered dinos with someone it’s best to civilly lay out the evidence.
I can relate definitely to wanting to let off steam about this. I’ve had my fair share of creationists I’ve dealt with that are a pain in the back side. There are just some people that can’t be convinced no matter the evidence though because they’re so focused on “being right” they make themselves blind to it. Of course my favorite thing to do is ask them plain-out: “How do you explain the feathers then on the dinosaurs that have been found with them?” And then lay the facts on the table about it if they have no explanation. If they still deny it? I walk away or accuse them of arguing for the sake of arguing. My way doesn’t always work, so usually I walk away and leave them be. :P