A brain scan that was performed on a dog-sized dinosaur called Thecodontosaurus that roamed around Britain 205-million-year-old revealed very interesting results. Since the remains were so well preserved, experts from the University of Bristol were able to reconstruct the two-inch-long dinosaur brain in 3D and performed CT scans on it.
Probably the most surprising revelation was that since it was related to herbivores that walked on four legs (such as the Diplodocus and Brontosaurus), it was assumed that the Thecodontosaurus was the same. However, the researchers were able to determine that this species ran quickly on two legs and it occasionally ate meat, in addition to having good eyesight and hearing that made it a great hunter.
Doctoral student and lead author of the study, Antonio Ballell, noted that even though it could catch prey, its tooth morphology indicated that plants were its main food source. This suggests that the Thecodontosaurus could have been an omnivore that ate both plants and meat.
Mr. Ballell went on to explain the scans, “Even though the actual brain is long gone, the software allows us to recreate brain and inner ear shape via the dimensions of the cavities left behind.” “The braincase of Thecodontosaurus is beautifully preserved so we compared it to other dinosaurs, identifying common features and some that are specific to Thecodontosaurus.” “Its brain cast even showed the detail of the floccular lobes, located at the back of the brain, which are important for balance. Their large size indicate[s] it was bipedal.” “This structure is also associated with the control of balance and eye and neck movements, suggesting Thecodontosaurus was relatively agile and could keep a stable gaze while moving fast.”
This is pretty shocking news as the Thecodontosaurus was one of the first sauropods – gigantic herbivores that could grow as long as 110 feet and weigh as much as 100 tons. The Thecodontosaurus, on the other hand, was only about the size of a very large dog, measuring a little over 6 feet in length and 3 feet in height.
Co-author of the study, Professor Mike Benton, weighed in by stating, “It is great to see how new technologies are allowing us to find out even more about how this little dinosaur lived more than 200 million years ago.” (An image of what Thecodontosaurus would have looked like can be seen here.)
The first bones belonging to a Thecodontosaurus were found back in 1834 where the Bristol Zoo now sits. Then in 1975, eleven more remains were discovered in a quarry. As a matter of fact, the United Kingdom has been described as a “dinosaur paradise” during ancient times. There were more than 100 different types of dinosaurs living in the UK that included three cousins of the Tyrannosaurus rex.
The study was published in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society where it can be read in full.