Researchers reconstruct the first complete brain of one of the oldest dinosaurs

Researchers reconstruct the first complete brain of one of the oldest dinosaurs
Buriolestes schultzi brain. Credit: Márcio L. Castro

The study of the brain of extinct organisms sheds lights on their behaviors. However, soft tissues, like the brain, are not usually preserved for long periods. Hence, researchers reconstruct the brains of dinosaurs by analyzing the cranial cavities under computed tomography. It demands well-preserved braincases, which is the region that envelops the brain tissues. To date, complete and well-preserved neurocrania from the oldest dinosaurs worldwide have not been found.

In 2015, a Brazilian paleontologist from the Universidade Federal de Santa Maria, Dr. Rodrigo Temp Müller, unearthed an exceptionally well-preserved skeleton from a fossiliferous locality in southern Brazil. The skeleton, approximately 233 million years old (Triassic period), belongs to a small carnivorous dinosaur named Buriolestes schultzi and the entire braincase was preserved. Now, Brazilian researchers have reconstructed the first complete brain of one of the oldest dinosaurs worldwide.

The study was published in Journal

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These tiny, little-winged dinosaurs were probably worse at flying than chickens

The discovery of two small dinosaurs with bat-like wings a few years ago was a palaeontologist’s dream. Just how flight evolved in birds is something we’re still trying to nail down, and looking at this early evolution of bat-like wings in dinosaurs could give us a clue.  

a close up of a bird: A drawing of the theropod dinosaur Yi qi, which sported bat-like wings.

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A drawing of the theropod dinosaur Yi qi, which sported bat-like wings.

But a team of researchers has now pointed out that just because you have wings, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re actually any good at flying.


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Yi qi and Ambopteryx longibrachium are two species of theropod dinosaurs that lived around 160 million years ago, both of which had unusually elongated fingers, and a skin membrane stretching between them, similar to a bat’s wing.

This is an entirely different kind of wing to the one theropod dinosaurs evolved to fly with – the dinosaurs that eventually

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Dinosaurs with bat wings ‘could barely fly, like chickens’ scientists reveal

How Ambopteryx might have looked in flight (McGill)
How Ambopteryx might have looked in flight (McGill)

Two tiny dinosaurs which had bat-like wings, could only manage a clumsy glide, and were wiped out by birds and other dinosaurs. 

Yi and Ambopteryx were small animals from Late Jurassic China, living about 160 million years ago. 

They could only glide, researchers believe, after reconstructing them by scanning fossils. 

This meant they were unable to compete with rivals in the forests where they lived, and died out in just a few million years. 

“We know some dinosaurs could fly before they evolved into birds,” says Professor Larsson, Director of McGill’s Redpath Museum.

“What this shows us is that at least one lineage of dinosaurs experimented with a completely different mode of aerial locomotion. Gliding evolved countless times in arboreal amphibians, mammals, lizards, and even snakes – and now we have an example of dinosaurs.”

The research was published in the journal

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Bat-winged dinosaurs were clumsy fliers

Only two dinosaur species are known to have had wings made out of stretched skin, like bats. But unlike bats, these dinos were capable of only limited gliding between trees, a new anatomical analysis suggests. That bat-winged gliding turned out to be a dead end along the path to the evolution of flight, researchers say.

“They are a failed experiment,” says Alexander Dececchi, a paleontologist at Mount Marty University in Sioux Falls, S.D.

Fliers with feathered wings, rather than membranous wings, begin to appear in the fossil record just a few million years after the bat-winged dinosaurs. Those feathered fliers may have outcompeted the gliders in their evolutionary niche, Dececchi and colleagues suggest October 22 in iScience.

Yi qi and Ambopteryx longibrachium were crow-sized dinosaurs that lived about 160 million years ago (SN: 4/29/15). They were distant cousins, both belonging to a bizarre group of dinosaurs known

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These Winged Dinosaurs Hurtled Through the Trees like Haywire Hang Gliders

During a blip in time in the late Jurassic, a dinosaur that weighed no more than a chinchilla flung itself from tree to tree, spread its wings and tried to soar. In theory, it sounds beautiful — an early attempt at flight before birds figured out the blueprint.

In practice, it was chaotic.

The dinosaur, Yi qi, only barely managed to glide, stretching out and shimmying its skin-flap, downy-feathered wings in a valiant attempt at flying. “It was rocketing from tree to tree, desperately trying not to slam into something,” said Alex Dececchi, a paleontologist at Mount Marty University in South Dakota. “It wouldn’t be something pleasant.”

Unsurprisingly, Yi qi is not an ancestor of modern birds. It went extinct after just a few million years, presumably doomed by its sheer lack of competency in the air. In a study published Thursday in the journal iScience, Dr. Dececchi and other

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