Scientists discover first known fossil of dinosaur brain tissue

What you see above might not look like much more than a small rock, but it marks a huge first in the field of paleontology: it's the first known example of a dinosaur brain tissue fossil. Originally discovered in Sussex, UK, it's believed to have come from a species similar to the Iguanodon, a large herbivore, roughly 133 million years ago.

While it was actually found back in 2004 by a fossil hunter, scientists from the UK and Australia have only just now been able to identify it as former brain tissue. The team used an electron microscope to detect the presence of mineralized, collagen, blood vessels, membranes, and brain cortex in the fossil. In their report, they suggest that the tissue was well-preserved due to the brain being preserved in something like a bog or swamp after the dinosaur died.

In their analysis, the scientists note that the finding point to a strong similarity between dinosaur brains and those of modern birds and reptiles, including crocodiles. One example is how typical reptile brains only occupy roughly half of the cranial cavity, with the remaining space densely filled with blood vessels and sinuses.

The team hopes to make 3D scans at some point in the near future, with a goal of better understanding dinosaur's evolutionary link by comparing them to modern creatures. In the end, however, the scientists admit that they just got really lucky in discovering the fossil, calling it a once in a lifetime find.

SOURCE University of Cambridge, Reuters