Paleontologists create a 3D model of the brain of an “armored dinosaur

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Russian researchers have carried out a virtual reconstruction of the brain of a dinosaur resembling a large armadillo. It is more a question of an endocast, the internal molding of a hollow space, here of a cranial vault. However, this technique is used for the study of brain development.

A virtual brain molding

Bissektipelta archibaldi is a dinosaur species that probably lived around 90 million years ago. In the 1990s until the early 2000s, excavations near Dzharakuduk (Uzbekistan) found many fossils of this dinosaur. These were kept for a long time at the Zoological Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences before ending up at the University of Saint Petersburg.

In a publication in the journal Biological Communications of June 5, 2020, the Russian researchers explained their work. After scanning the various fossils of Bissektipelta archibaldi, the paleontologists carried out a virtual molding of the internal cavity of the skull. It is an endocast, providing information on the internal and external parts of the brain of this extinct animal, an “armored dinosaur” resembling a large armadillo.

After that, the study leaders worked for three years modeling the interior of the skull. However, these were based on several indices. These are the orifices and other impressions made on the inside of the skull’s skullcap by vessels, nerves, and the cerebral hemispheres.

A highly developed sense of smell

The first observation made by Russian researchers concerns the size of the brain. Indeed, the latter is tiny since it is a question of a mass of only 26.5 grams for a diameter of about five centimeters. However, remember that the Bissektipelta archibaldi could measure up to three meters long.

In addition, the scientists estimated that the cerebral hemispheres consisted of olfactory bulbs up to 60%. Thus, the animal had a very good sense of smell and that undoubtedly made it possible to help it to feed, to mate and to avoid certain predators. Another dinosaur surely had even more powerful abilities: the tyrannosaurus. In fact, the olfactory bulbs occupied 65 to 70% of its cerebral hemispheres.

The study leaders also said they observed the inner ear of the dinosaur. However, the latter had hearing abilities close to those of the crocodile. The Bissektipelta archibaldi heard in a frequency range between 300 and 3000 hertz. Finally, let us also mention another characteristic that brings the Bissektipelta closer to the tyrannosaurus: a large network of veins and arteries. It is a crossflow circulatory system also present in some reptiles such as crocodiles, snakes and other lizards. However, this system was used to distribute the heat in the body of the animal.