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Remarkable preservation of brain tissues in an Early Cretaceous iguanodontian dinosaur

By
Martin D. Brasier
Martin D. Brasier
Department of Earth Sciences, University of Oxford, South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3AN, UK
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David B. Norman
David B. Norman
Department of Earth Sciences, University of Cambridge, Downing Street, Cambridge CB2 3EQ, UK
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Alexander G. Liu
Alexander G. Liu
Department of Earth Sciences, University of Cambridge, Downing Street, Cambridge CB2 3EQ, UKSchool of Earth Sciences, University of Bristol, Life Sciences Building, 24 Tyndall Avenue, Bristol BS8 1TQ, UK
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Laura J. Cotton
Laura J. Cotton
School of Biological Sciences, The University of Hong Kong, Kadoorie Biological Sciences Building, Pokfulam Road, Hong Kong SAR, China
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Jamie E. H. Hiscocks
Jamie E. H. Hiscocks
Cantelupe Road, Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex TN40 1PP, UK
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Russell J. Garwood
Russell J. Garwood
School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Manchester, Manchester M13 9PL, UKDepartment of Earth Sciences, Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 5BD, UK
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Jonathan B. Antcliffe
Jonathan B. Antcliffe
Institute of Earth Sciences, University of Lausanne, 1015 Lausanne, SwitzerlandDepartment of Zoology, University of Oxford, The Tinbergen Building, South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3PS, UKOxford University Museum of Natural History, Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3PW, UK
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David Wacey
David Wacey
School of Earth Sciences, University of Bristol, Life Sciences Building, 24 Tyndall Avenue, Bristol BS8 1TQ, UKCentre for Microscopy Characterisation and Analysis, and Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Core to Crust Fluid Systems, The University of Western Australia, 35 Stirling Highway, Perth, WA 6009, Australia
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Published:
January 01, 2017

Abstract

It has become accepted in recent years that the fossil record can preserve labile tissues. We report here the highly detailed mineralization of soft tissues associated with a naturally occurring brain endocast of an iguanodontian dinosaur found in c. 133 Ma fluvial sediments of the Wealden at Bexhill, Sussex, UK. Moulding of the braincase wall and the mineral replacement of the adjacent brain tissues by phosphates and carbonates allowed the direct examination of petrified brain tissues. Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) imaging and computed tomography (CT) scanning revealed preservation of the tough membranes (meninges) that enveloped and supported the brain proper. Collagen strands of the meningeal layers were preserved in collophane. The blood vessels, also preserved in collophane, were either lined by, or infilled with, microcrystalline siderite. The meninges were preserved in the hindbrain region and exhibit structural similarities with those of living archosaurs. Greater definition of the forebrain (cerebrum) than the hindbrain (cerebellar and medullary regions) is consistent with the anatomical and implied behavioural complexity previously described in iguanodontian-grade ornithopods. However, we caution that the observed proximity of probable cortical layers to the braincase walls probably resulted from the settling of brain tissues against the roof of the braincase after inversion of the skull during decay and burial.

Supplementary material: Information regarding associated fossil material, and additional images, can be found at https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.c.3519984

Gold Open Access: This article is published under the terms of the CC-BY 3.0 license.

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Contents

Geological Society

Earth System Evolution and Early Life: A Celebration of the Work of Martin Brasier

A. T. Brasier
A. T. Brasier
University of Aberdeen, UK
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D. Mcilroy
D. Mcilroy
Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada
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N. McLoughlin
N. McLoughlin
Rhodes University, South Africa
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Geological Society of London
Volume
448
ISBN electronic:
9781786202932
Publication date:
January 01, 2017

GeoRef

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