Researchers have discovered a fossil chunk on a beach in East Sussex which is believed to be the fossilized remains of a dinosaur’s brain, marking the first such discovery in recorded history.
The fossilized brain tissue, which is believed to belong to a relative of the Iguanodon, is approximately 133 million years old.
While the fossil is primarily an endocast, its surface contains what appear to be mineralized pieces of brain tissue, which may offer new insights into the brains of long-extinct dinosaurs.
Due to its extreme rarity, the finding, which was announced yesterday at the annual meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, has been hailed by some as a remarkable discovery.
One of the researchers behind its discovery, paleontologist David Norman with the University of Cambridge, indicated that he and his colleagues believe that the long extinct dinosaur whose fossilized brain they discovered sank into a pond long ago, causing its eventual death. As a result of the conditions it died in, its head ended up partially buried in the sediments at the bottom of the lake. Subsequently its braincase acted as a natural bowl of sorts, allowing the remnants of its brain to be collected and effectively pickled within.
Paleontologist Lawrence Witmer with Ohio University was quoted by National Geographic as having said that the specimen looks “very exceptional” while noting that the preservation of soft tissue “of any kind gets us excited, and for those of us looking at the brain, potentially getting a glimpse into what the brain is like blows us away.”
“It looks like a very exceptional specimen, for sure. Soft tissue preservation of any kind gets us excited, and for those of us looking at the brain, potentially getting a glimpse into what the brain is like blows us away.”
While the discovery was only recently made public, it was first discovered more than a decade ago when fossil hunter Jamie Hiscocks uncovered the fossil after a winter storm in 2004.
It has been so well preserved over the years that the capillaries remain visible.
Although its lobes are not apparent, leaving researchers speculating as to the actual size of the dinosaur’s brain, Dr. David Norman believes that “it’s entirely possible that dinosaurs had bigger brains that we give them credit for,” although he notes that “we can’t tell from this specimen alone.”
Norman, who referred to the level of preservation as “truly remarkable,” was quoted by The Telegraph as having noted that the “conditions were just right in order to allow preservation of the brain tissue – hopefully this is the first if many such discoveries.”