February 1, 2023

Tyrannosaurus Rex had the capacity of a primate brain

Posted 6/1/2023 6:22 PM / Updated 6/1/2023 6:24 PM

Majestic giants of size and strength were also triumphant in brain skill – (Credit: Yuri/Pixabay)

A discovery made by a Brazilian neuroscientist and biologist disproves the idea that hypothesis tyrannosaurus rex It was a giant with a “bird brain”, a reference to a primitive animal’s lack of cognitive ability. The study revealed, in fact, that the dinosaur “starred” in the movie Jurassic Park It has a number of brain neurons similar to those of a baboon.

The observation was performed by neurologist Susana Herculano Hozel W Posted this Thursday (5/1) in Journal of Comparative Neuroscience. According to Susannah, the discovery brings “really scarier than in the movies.”

“It’s official. The number of similar neurons means that (dinosaur) has what it takes to build tools, solve problems and live up to 40 years, which is enough to build a culture,” explains the expert.

The discovery was not so simple. After all, when the animal became extinct more than 65 million years ago, there are no studyable brain samples. The alternative, then, was to study the composition of the brains of species that evolved from dinosaurs, which today are proportional in size to endothermic birds.

The species closest to dinosaurs that are considered “cousins” are rhesus, ostriches, and chickens. The specialist relied on material produced by a colleague in the area and published, in 2022, an analysis of the number of neurons in the brain of a variety of bird species.

Neuroscientist Susana Herculano Hozel, responsible for the discovery, next to a life-size fossil of the head of a Tyrant Rex, at the Stone Age Institute in Indiana, during a visit in 2017. In the hands of the specialist is a copy of the animal's brain cavity, which houses the same number of neurons as modern baboon
Neuroscientist Susana Herculano Hozel, responsible for the discovery, next to a life-size fossil of the head of a Tyrant Rex, at the Stone Age Institute in Indiana, during a visit in 2017. In the hands of the specialist is a copy of the animal’s brain cavity, which houses the same number of neurons as modern baboon
(Photo: Susana Herculano Hozel/Reproduction)

Thus, the specialist counted the neurons of these modern animals and calculated the proportion of neurons to the size of the brains of birds. Then use a volume scale to count how many neurons are in the skull of a Tyrannosaurus rex.

“The Tyrannosaurus rex had as many neurons as a modern baboon. The verdict was that they were the primates of their time,” Susanna says. Primates are the order of modern mammals with a large and differentiated brain, capable of developing skills beyond those necessary for survival.

In addition, the number of neurons shows that dinosaurs could live up to 40 years – a characteristic only achieved by baboons – and enough time to “learn to use and manufacture tools, build and transmit culture.”

For a neurologist, the discovery is “terrifying”, because the presence of gigantic adversaries with a capacity a thousand times greater than that of any other organism – including humans – would prevent any peaceful coexistence. “I will never look at dinosaurs the same way again. Ah, thanks to the asteroid that hit Earth – and dinosaurs – 65 million years ago,” the expert jokes.

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