With all the weird artificial intelligence developments and space discoveries being made, good ol’ dinosaur discoveries often get overlooked. Dinosaurs have been dead for millions of years after all, and thankfully show no signs of coming back. However, it’s still been a big year for thunder lizards. In 2016, several new species of dinosaurs have been discovered, some of which were found to have been intercontinental travelers. Now, a recent discovery made by a fossil collector in England has the potential to breathe some new life into dinosaur research. According to a study published by The Geological Society of London, the world’s first fossilized dinosaur brain has been discovered.
The fossilized brain was found in 2004 by a fossil collector named Jamie Hiscocks, who saw the brain lying on a beach near Bexhill in the United Kingdom. The brain is thought to belong to an Iguanodon, a massive herbivorous dinosaur from the Early Cretaceous Period.
Luckily for paleontologists, the dinosaur is thought to have fallen into an acidic body of water such as a swamp. According to Dr. David Norman, a University of Cambridge researcher and co-author of this study, the swamp’s chemical conditions were perfect for preserving the soft brain tissue long enough for a fossil form:
What we think happened is that this particular dinosaur died in or near a body of water, and its head ended up partially buried in the sediment at the bottom. Since the water had little oxygen and was very acidic, the soft tissues of the brain were likely preserved and cast before the rest of its body was buried in the sediment.
Over millions of years, sediments eventually filled the dinosaur’s brain case, creating the fossilized brain we see today.
The fossilized brain is making waves in the paleontological world thanks to the fact that some of the brain’s outer layers were preserved intact. According to co-author Dr. Alex Liu, this find is nothing short of a paleontological jackpot:
The chances of preserving brain tissue are incredibly small, so the discovery of this specimen is astonishing.
Don’t go hoping for cuddly dino clones just yet, though; the fossilized brain is thought to contain very little viable tissues. However, this brain specimen will still allow scientists to get a peek into dinosaur brain structure and anatomy like never before.