Brain Of The Biggest Meat-eating Dinosaur That Ever Lived Unveiled
Largest meat-eating dinosaur: Artist’s impression of Ceratosuchops. (Photo by Anthony Hutchings via SWNS)
The brain of the biggest meat-eating dinosaur that ever lived has been unveiled by scientists.
It was created from the remains of two dinosaurs dug up in Surrey, UK, and on the Isle of Wight.
The predators could reach 50ft long and weigh 20 tons – and hunted in the water as well as on land.
Scientists digitally reconstructed its grey matter and inner ears from the skulls of individuals named Baryonyx and Ceratosuchops.
They roamed what is now Guildford and Brightsone Bay in the UK 125 million years ago.
The internal soft tissues controlled coordination, sight, smell, intelligence – and even reproduction.
They shed fresh light on the evolution of the biggest land animals that ever lived.
Lead author Chris Barker, a Ph.D. student at Southampton University, said: “Despite their unusual ecology, it seems the brains and senses of these early spinosaurs retained many aspects in common with other large-bodied theropods.
“There is no evidence their semi-aquatic lifestyles are reflected in the way their brains are organized.”
The olfactory bulbs, which process smells, weren’t particularly developed and the ear was attuned to low-frequency sounds.
Those parts involved in keeping the head stable and the gaze fixed on prey were possibly less developed than in later, more specialized spinosaurs.
It suggests their ancestors already possessed brains and sensory adaptations suited for part-time fish catching.
All they needed to do to become specialized for a semi-aquatic existence was evolve an unusual snout and teeth.
Spinosaurs were an unusual type of carnivorous dinosaur that was aquatic as well as terrestrial.
They were equipped with long, crocodile-like jaws and six-inch razor-sharp teeth. This enabled them to stalk riverbanks for large fish.
It was a very different lifestyle to more familiar theropods such as Allosaurus and T.rex – which they dwarfed.
Baryonyx and Ceratosuchops reached 30 feet long, over 10 feet tall and weighed about five tons.
Ceratosuchops translates as ‘horned crocodile-faced hell heron’ – as it prowled like the wading bird. Its brow was adorned with a series of low horns and bumps.
Baryonyx refers to the animal’s very large claw on its first finger that would have ripped fish to shreds. They were powered by fin-like tails.
Soft organs, such as the brain, don’t survive fossilization. So the British and US team used CT (computed tomography) scans to peer into perfectly preserved cranial cavities.
They isolated sections of the skull – filling the gaps with each. Putting the regions provided a 3D representation of the space – or endocast.
Co-author Dr. Darren Naish, also from Southampton, said: “Because the skulls of all spinosaurs are so specialized for fish-catching, it’s surprising to see such ‘non-specialized’ brains.
“But the results are still significant. It’s exciting to get so much information on sensory abilities – on hearing, sense of smell, balance and so on – from British dinosaurs.
“Using cutting-edge technology, we basically obtained all the brain-related information we possibly could from these fossils.”
A model of Ceratosuchops’ brain is going on display alongside its bones at Dinosaur Isle Museum in Sandown.
Co-author Professor Lawrence Witmer, of Ohio University said: “This new research is just the latest in what amounts to a revolution in paleontology due to advances in CT-based imaging of fossils.
“We’re now in a position to be able to assess the cognitive and sensory capabilities of extinct animals and explore how the brain evolved in behaviorally extreme dinosaurs like spinosaurs.”
Analyses have found the bones of Ceratosuchops and its cousin Baryonyx were dense – just like those of today’s penguins, hippos and alligators.
This provided buoyancy – enabling them to submerge themselves to kill.
Animals that find food in water have virtually solid bones. Those of land-dwellers look more like doughnuts – with hollow centers.
Co-author Dr. Neil Gostling, who leads Southampton’s EvoPalaeoLab, said: “This new study highlights the significant role British fossils have in our constantly evolving, fast-moving understanding of dinosaurs.
“It shows how the UK – and the University of Southampton in particular – is at the forefront of spinosaur research.
“Spinosaurs themselves are one of the most controversial of all dinosaur groups.
“This study is a valuable addition to ongoing discussions of their biology and evolution.”
Produced in association with SWNS Talker.