Wed. Jan 26th, 2022

The fossil is about 70 million years old and has an almost complete skull, an unusual occurrence in the fossil record that permitted the scientists to compare the ancient bird to birds living today.
The findings were released on July 30, 2021, in the journal Science Advances.
A fossil skull of Ichthyornis, a bird that lived 70 million years back during the late Cretaceous Period. Credit: Christopher Torres/ The University of Texas at Austin
The fossil is a brand-new specimen of a bird named Ichthyornis, which went extinct at the exact same time as other nonavian dinosaurs and lived in what is now Kansas throughout the late Cretaceous Period. Ichthyornis has a mix of bird and nonavian dinosaur-like qualities– consisting of jaws filled with teeth but tipped with a beak. The intact skull let Torres and his collaborators get a closer appearance at the brain.
Bird skulls wrap tightly around their brains. With CT-imaging information, the scientists utilized the skull of Ichthyornis like a mold to develop a 3D reproduction of its brain called an endocast. They compared that endocast with ones created for living birds and more distant dinosaurian loved ones.
The forefathers of living birds had a brain shape that was much various from other dinosaurs (including other early birds). This suggests that brain distinctions might have affected survival during the mass termination that erased all nonavian dinosaurs. Credit: Christopher Torres/ The University of Texas at Austin.
The scientists discovered that the brain of Ichthyornis had more in typical with nonavian dinosaurs than living birds. In specific, the cerebral hemispheres– where higher cognitive functions such as speech, thought and emotion take place in people– are much larger in living birds than in Ichthyornis. That pattern suggests that these functions might be linked to making it through the mass extinction.
” If a function of the brain affected survivorship, we would anticipate it to be present in the survivors however missing in the casualties, like Ichthyornis,” said Torres. “Thats exactly what we see here.”
The look for skulls from early risers and closely associated dinosaurs has been challenging paleontologists for centuries. Bird skeletons are notoriously breakable and seldom survive in the fossil record undamaged in three measurements. Well-preserved skulls are particularly rare– but thats exactly what scientists require in order to understand what their brains resembled in life.
” Ichthyornis is essential to unraveling that secret,” stated Julia Clarke, a professor at the UT Jackson School of Geosciences and co-author of the research study. “This fossil helps bring us much closer to responding to some relentless concerns worrying living birds and their survivorship among dinosaurs.”
Reference: “Bird neurocranial and body mass development across the end-Cretaceous mass extinction: The avian brain shape left other dinosaurs behind” by Christopher R. Torres, Mark A. Norell and Julia A. Clarke, 30 July 2021, Science Advances.DOI: 10.1126/ sciadv.abg7099.
Mark Norell, the manager and division chair of paleontology at the American Museum of Natural History, co-authored the study. This work was moneyed by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Science Education Program, the Jackson School of Geosciences and the American Museum of Natural History.

The fossil is a brand-new specimen of a bird called Ichthyornis, which went extinct at the exact same time as other nonavian dinosaurs and lived in what is now Kansas throughout the late Cretaceous Period. Bird skulls wrap tightly around their brains. The forefathers of living birds had a brain shape that was much different from other dinosaurs (consisting of other early birds). The researchers found that the brain of Ichthyornis had more in common with nonavian dinosaurs than living birds. Bird skeletons are notoriously brittle and hardly ever endure in the fossil record undamaged in 3 measurements.

A transparent 3D design of the fossil bird skull and brain (in pink). Credit: Christopher Torres/ The University of Texas at Austin
Today, being “birdbrained” implies forgetting where you left your keys or wallet. However 66 million years earlier, it may have implied the difference in between life and death– and might help discuss why birds are the only dinosaurs left on Earth.
Research on a freshly discovered bird fossil led by The University of Texas at Austin found that an unique brain shape might be why the forefathers of living birds endured the mass extinction that claimed all other known dinosaurs.
” Living birds have brains more complicated than any recognized animals other than mammals,” said lead detective Christopher Torres, who carried out the research study while earning a Ph.D. from the UT College of Natural Sciences and is now a National Science Foundation postdoctoral fellow at Ohio University and research study partner at the UT Jackson School of Geosciences. “This brand-new fossil lastly lets us test the idea that those brains played a significant role in their survival.”

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