An international team of scientists are claiming this feat of discovering as astoundingly rare specimen of a fossilized dinosaur brain. The fossil was first discovered by a collector Jamie Hiscock in East Sussex, England more than 10 years ago, with the find at a glance seeming to be a small brown rock. The sample was later given into the hands of the late Professor Martin Brasier of the University of Oxford, although the true extent of the one-of-kind fossil was recognised years later. His work has brought into fruition by a renowned group of scientists including the paleontologist at the University of Cambridge, Dr David Norman.

Dr Norman explained in his presentation at the annual meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology how the texture match the outer wrinkly shape of a brain. “There are pits and creases and folds” he described.

On 27th October 2016, the findings were published in the Special Publication of the Geological Society of London suggest the dinosaur being around in the early Cretaceous period approximately 133 million years ago. The dinosaur has been identified as an herbivorous Iguanodontian dinosaur that most likely perished with his head landing inside a boggy swamp.

This was derived from the excellent preservation of the soft tissue, which probably resulted from its ‘pickling’ within the highly acidic conditions of the swamp. This was accompanied by the lack of oxygen created ideal conditions for the mineralisation of the brain resulting in the very well formed specimen.

The likelihood of this process occurring and allowing the preservation of such a significant tissue has shocked the researchers. Moreover the further analysis of the sample using scanning electron microscopy (SEM) imaging and computed tomography (CT) scanning technology, has revealed the intricate details of the brain including the blood vessels, collagen networks, the tough outer layers of neural tissue which support the brain, as well as the adjacent cortical tissues.

The information has helped shed insight into the similarity of the infrastructure of the ancient dinosaur brains and the modern reptilian brain. Although this finding will certainly not help in the understanding of what happened inside the dinosaur brain, it is also not a good example to deduce an estimate of the brain size of the species. Overall the scientists are counting themselves lucky to have stumbled upon such a rare find.

– Palwasha Najeeb, Correspondent (Science)

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