Scientists discover world's first fossilized dinosaur brain
Sunday, October 30, 2016, 6:40 PM - Jamie Hiscocks knew right away that he had found something special. It was more than a decade ago that the fossil hunter discovered an uncanny brown pebble in Sussex, England.
The scientist's brown pebble discovery has now been identified as the first known example of a fossilized brain of a dinosaur.
The findings on the fossil were published in a Special Publication of the Geological Society of London, in tribute to Oxford University professor Martin Brasier who passed away in 2014.
"I have always believed I had something special," Hiscocks said in a statement from the University of Cambridge. "I noticed there was something odd about the preservation, and soft tissue preservation did go through my mind. Martin realised its potential significance right at the beginning, but it wasn’t until years later that its true significance came to be realised."
Hiscocks co-authored the study on the fossilized brain.
“In his initial email to me, Martin asked if I’d ever heard of dinosaur brain cells being preserved in the fossil record" Hiscock recalls. "I knew exactly what he was getting at. I was amazed to hear this coming from a world renowned expert like him.”
Before his untimely passing, Brasier co-ordinated the research into the "brown pebble" with Dr. David Norman from the University of Cambridge.
The discovery of fossilized soft tissue -- particularly, brain tissue -- is a rare phenomenon, co-author Alex Liu from Cambridge's department of earth sciences notes. Liu was one of Brasier's PhD students at Oxford when the examination of the fossil began.
The brain is presumed to have belonged to a species similar to the Iguanodon, a giant herbivore that existed approximately 133 million years ago.
"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," Norman said in a statement. "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."
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Thumbnail image courtesy of Jamie Hiscocks via dinodiscoveries, Instagram.