Scientists have reconstructed the brain of a dinosaur that roamed the UK 205 million years ago and gained amazing insights into its way of life.
Thecodontosaurus is related to the descendants Diplodocus and Brontosaurus.
However, it is believed that the creature, which was roughly the size of a dog, quickly walked on two legs, ate meat, and had good hearing and eyesight – which made it an accomplished hunter.
Paleontologists used CT scans to recreate the creature's two-inch, strawberry-sized brain in 3D.
Antonio Ballell, lead author of the study published in the Linnean Society's Zoological Journal, said: “Our analysis of the Thecodontosaurus brain has revealed many fascinating features, some of which were quite surprising.
Thecodontosaurus quickly walked on two legs and ate meat – unlike its giant herbivore descendants Diplodocus and Brontosaurus. The creature, about the size of a large dog, also had good hearing and eyesight – which made it an accomplished hunter
From CT scans of the fossil, 3D models of the brain shell and the endocast were created and examined. Lead author Antonio Ballell said, "Our analysis of Thecodontosaurus brain revealed many fascinating features, some of which were quite surprising."
"While its later relatives moved heavily on all fours, our results suggest that this species may have walked on two legs and was occasionally carnivorous."
The fossilized remains were perfectly preserved and contained the brain shell – which enabled a precise reconstruction of the organ.
Graduate student Antonio added, "It would have been about two inches long, about the size of a strawberry."
Although thecodontosaurus was a carnivore, it was an early member of the herbivorous sauropods. Some weighed up to 100 tons and reached a length of 110 feet.
The seminal study sheds new light on the evolution of the largest land animals that ever lived.
Thecodontosaurus was over two meters long and over two meters tall, and the size of a large dog.
Computer images show regions of the brain that are involved in coordination, mobility, vision, nutrition and hearing.
The Bristol University team that holds the animal's fossils used state-of-the-art software to extract new information without destroying it.
Bones were digitally extracted from the rock and identified anatomical details of his brain for the first time.
Mr. Ballell, a PhD student, said, “Although the actual brain has long since disappeared, the software allows us to recreate the shape of the brain and inner ear using the dimensions of the cavities left behind.
& # 39; The Thecodontosaurus brain shell is beautifully preserved, so we compared it to other dinosaurs and identified common and some features specific to Thecodontosaurus.
& # 39; His brain print even showed the details of the flock flaps, which are located in the back of the brain and are important for balance. Their size indicates that it was bipedal.
"This structure is also linked to control of balance and eye and neck movements, suggesting that Thecodontosaurus was relatively agile and was able to maintain a steady gaze while moving quickly."
Paleontologists used CT scans to recreate the strawberry-sized brain in 3D. The creature is known as the "Bristol Dinosaur" because of its origins in the city
Thecodontosaurus is related to the descendants of the herbivores Diplodocus and Brontosaurus, who walked on all fours, ate plants, and were enormous
The first Thecodontosaurus was discovered near what is now Bristol Zoo in 1834 – before dinosaurs were recognized as a species.
Another eleven were discovered in 1975 in a quarry north of the city. Diet has been discussed for decades. It used to be believed to be a vegetarian.
Mr. Ballell of the School of Earth Sciences said, “Our analysis found that parts of the brain associated with stabilizing the head, eyes and gaze are calm while moving, are well developed.
'This could also mean that Thecodontosaurus might catch prey on occasion, though its tooth morphology suggests that plants were the main part of its diet. It is possible that it has adopted omnivorous habits. & # 39;
Thecodontosaurus existed when the earth's landmass was a supercontinent called Pangea. Before it broke up, Bristol was roughly where Morocco is today.
Britain's rich reptilian past is largely overlooked. It was once a "dinosaur paradise", home to over 100 different species – including three cousins of T Rex.
The majority are from Oxfordshire and the Isle of Wight. Others have also been discovered in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.
Co-author Professor Mike Benton said, “It's great to see how new technology is allowing us to find out even more about how this little dinosaur lived more than 200 million years ago.
“We started working on Thecodontosaurus in 1990. It is the emblem of the Bristol Dinosaur Project, an educational program where students in local schools talk about science.
“We are very fortunate to have so many well-preserved fossils of such an important dinosaur here in Bristol.
"This has helped us understand many aspects of Thecodontosaurus biology, but there are still many questions about this species that have yet to be investigated."