A study of a fossil found in 2004 recently confirmed the discovery of the first ever fossilized dinosaur brain Thursday, October 27. The 133-million-year-old fossil was found on a beach in Sussex England by Jamie Hiscocks in 2004.
The amateur fossil hunter handed the fossil over to Paleontologists at Oxford for further study. According to the New York Times, a team of British and Australian scientists recently used a scanning electron microscope to do a forensic examination of the fossil. According to the New York Times article, scientists “discovered that the fossil contained blood vessels and capillaries, as well as tissue from the cortex, the outer layer of the brain, and the meninges, which is the membrane that helps keep the brain in place.”
According to the Vox website, this is an exciting discovery because brains usually decompose so quickly after death that no piece of fossilized brain had ever been discovered from a dinosaur before. The researchers think that a massive Iguanodon dinosaur fell into a shallow swamp or bog sometime during the Early Cretaceous Period and its head became buried beneath the sediment. Fortunately for researchers, minerals from the acidic pool began to replace the soft tissue in the cranium, preserving it for millions of years.
David Norman, a paleontologist at the University of Cambridge and author of the study published by the Geological Society of London stated, “The acid solution would have pickled the parts of the brain that were immersed.” Dr. Norman says the discovery, while it doesn’t tell scientists much about dinosaur brains, is a historic find purely for its rarity. He hopes this find will encourage paleontologists to investigate their fossils more carefully so they won’t miss amazing finds such as this one. Dr. Norman calls the dinosaur brain “uniquely remarkable,” but he also admits that “it’s not going to change the way we think.”