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Dinosaur Brains Flight-Ready Long Before They Took To the Air

samzenpus posted about a year ago | from the getting-your-mind-right dept.

Science 49

An anonymous reader writes "Dinosaurs evolved the brain power for flight long before they took to the air, new evidence presented in the journal Nature suggests. Contrary to the cliche, a 'bird brain' describes a relatively enlarged brain with the capacity required for flight. However, based on high-resolution X-ray computed tomographic (CT) scans, researchers found that at least a few non-avian dinosaurs had brains as large or larger than Archaeopteryx, one of the earliest known birds, indicating that some dinosaurs already suspected of flight capability would have had the neurological tools to do so."

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Finally, Conclusive Proof... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44476543)

...for Intelligent Design!

Re:Finally, Conclusive Proof... (2)

jellomizer (103300) | about a year ago | (#44478309)

This article does seem like it counter evolution the way it was stated.

What was more accurate was the brains were doing something else that would allow for an easy migration to flight.

Such as our thumb, our ancient Monkey like relieves had thumbs, like us, however they didn't use tools, they used them to help with climbing. As we evolved further we found the tools that we had for climbing came in rather handy for tools too.

Evolution has a lot of random elements, and it isn't survival of the fittest per say but survival of the luckiest... However the one who were lucky to be more fit then the other would tend to have an advantage... However not always, sometimes something silly as having a brighter color or a lump in the right spot, did more to attract mates then giving them a normal survival advantage, in some cases due to its random nature becomes more of a problem to normal survival... However it was good enough to get to the next generation.

The Intelligent Design folks state on how perfect the human body is... However we are not perfect by any means. Child Birth complication as a trade-off to being able to walk upright, or our noes when it is stuffed hinders breathing! We are prone to a bunch of aliments. But what we had was good enough to pass onto the next generation. In many ways Trees are more "evolved" then we are, they can survive much more then we can.

+1 grammar butcher (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44478717)

This article does seem like it counter evolution the way it was stated.

What was more accurate was the brains were doing something else that would allow for an easy migration to flight.

Such as our thumb, our ancient Monkey like RELATIVES had thumbs, like us, however they didn't use tools, they used them to help with climbing. As we evolved further we found the THUMBS that we had for climbing came in rather handy for tools too.

Evolution has a lot of random elements, and it isn't survival of the fittest per SE but survival of the luckiest... However the one who were lucky to be more fit THAN the other would tend to have an advantage... However not always, sometimes something silly as having a brighter color or a lump in the right spot, did more to attract mates THAN giving them a normal survival advantage, in some cases due to its random nature becomes more of a problem to normal survival... However it was good enough to get to the next generation.

The Intelligent Design folks state on how perfect the human body is... However we are not perfect by any means. Child Birth complication as a trade-off to being able to walk upright, or our NOSE when it is stuffed hinders breathing! We are prone to a bunch of AILMENTS. But what we had was good enough to pass onto the next generation. In many ways Trees are more "evolved" THAN we are, they can survive much more THAN we can.

Re:Finally, Conclusive Proof... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44479577)

This research proves why most dinosaur bones are found piled in groups. Millions of years ago, the dinosaur brain believed it could fly so they made pilgrimages to high cliffs trying to fly. One by one they went over the edge, splat ... then another... splat... and on it went year after year. The true story about the extinction is simple, they were stupid.

Paywalled. (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about a year ago | (#44476571)

Does the article discuss (or does anybody more familiar with today's dinosaurs, not the ones that they thought existed back when I was a kid, most of which seem to have been revised or eliminated, know) if the 'flight-capable' cranial capacities occurred in dinosaurs that, while not capable of flying, had enough pseudo-wing structure available that assorted flight-like stabilization and assisted locomotion strategies would be available, or is the conclusion that correlation between inferred brain structure and flight capabilities is surprisingly weak?

Re:Paywalled. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44476669)

Posted on BBC about 3 weeks ago if you want a non paywalled version

RTFL(ink) (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44476671)

Read the fine link [nature.com]

... Thus, bird-like encephalization indices evolved multiple times, supporting the conclusion that if Archaeopteryx had the neurological capabilities required of flight, so did at least some other non-avian maniraptorans. This is congruent with recent findings that avialans were not unique among maniraptorans in their ability to fly in some form.

Re:Paywalled - So left guessing... (1)

icebike (68054) | about a year ago | (#44478409)

Does the article discuss (or does anybody more familiar with today's dinosaurs, not the ones that they thought existed back when I was a kid, most of which seem to have been revised or eliminated, know) if the 'flight-capable' cranial capacities occurred in dinosaurs that, while not capable of flying, had enough pseudo-wing structure available that assorted flight-like stabilization and assisted locomotion strategies would be available, or is the conclusion that correlation between inferred brain structure and flight capabilities is surprisingly weak?

Surprisingly weak is my guess. (This seems generally true of so many theories pushed into the mainstream press these days). Phrenology revisited.

Flight may well have been preceded by centuries of hopping around in tree tops or cliff sides, and gliding down (like "flying" squirrels) [onionstatic.com] thereby selecting for those capable of developing mental models of 3D space, and processing not necessary for ground animals. That life style would also favor those animals with lighter bodies, flattened tails and grasping claws.

The theory, as characterized in the summary, suggests by analogy that humans were already specialized for typing long before inventing the typewriter. Clearly they didn't mean that, (one hopes), but they without access to the paywall, its hard to know which animals were selected for analysis.

Re:Paywalled - So left guessing... (2)

sylvandb (308927) | about a year ago | (#44480141)

Exactly what I was thinking. Is a flying squirrel similarly adapted today?

Or is this supposedly flight enhanced brain just the ability to visualize and process one's movements in a 3d space significantly larger than one's own body size?

If so, it might be nothing more than the ability to conceive/visualize converging trajectories beyond the immediate reach of teeth and claws. Typical predator pursuit behavior, in other words.

big brains needed for hunting (1)

alen (225700) | about a year ago | (#44476601)

i bet hunting other animals to kill and eat them requires bigger brains than simply standing around and eating grass or leaves. i mean not like the vegesaurians want to be killed and eaten

Re:big brains needed for hunting (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44476837)

This. Is why vegans are dumb.

Re:big brains needed for hunting (2)

MightyYar (622222) | about a year ago | (#44477211)

Low hanging fruit. Low hanging fruit.

Anyway, I'm not sure picking up a tray of beef at the grocery store takes any more or less brain power than picking up a box of lentils.

Re:big brains needed for hunting (1)

icebike (68054) | about a year ago | (#44478505)

Low hanging fruit. Low hanging fruit.

Anyway, I'm not sure picking up a tray of beef at the grocery store takes any more or less brain power than picking up a box of lentils.

True, but catching and harvesting the steer takes a tad more brain power than happening upon a lentil. Even the packaging takes more imagination.

Historically, an animal chasing bigger animals with pointy sticks would seem less likely to be preyed upon than an animal squatting stationary in a lentil patch.

Re:big brains needed for hunting (1)

MightyYar (622222) | about a year ago | (#44478901)

Well, naturally, but most people aren't farmers or hunter gatherers anymore. Less than 1% of the population is involved with food production, and even a lowly vegan can in theory be a cattleman.

Re:big brains needed for hunting (4, Funny)

DexterIsADog (2954149) | about a year ago | (#44477157)

"How much intelligence do you need to sneak up on a leaf?"

Re:big brains needed for hunting (4, Interesting)

serviscope_minor (664417) | about a year ago | (#44477695)

"How much intelligence do you need to sneak up on a leaf?"

To sneak up on a leaf? Not much. To avoid getting eaten by a lion while you're sneaking up on a leaf? Quite a bit more apparently.

The African buffalo is reportedly rather more intelligent than you might suspect. There are numerous reports of communication, team work and even engaging in vindictive group behaviour like pursuing lions and killing lion cubs.

Re:big brains needed for hunting (1)

Feyshtey (1523799) | about a year ago | (#44477221)

How long will a species survive without the ability to detect and evade predators?

Re:big brains needed for hunting (1)

SunTzuWarmaster (930093) | about a year ago | (#44478087)

I don't know. I can't ask the grass, zooplankton, krill, or any of the large number of bacteria that spread through being eaten.

Re:big brains needed for hunting (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44479127)

You loose your bet, smartest mammals are primates, whales and dolphins; with the exception of dolphins the other two taxa are primarily herbivores (and while some whales do eat microscopic animals, they do so in and herbivore fashion). Intelligence is not related to depredation role.

Re:big brains needed for hunting (1)

JeffAtl (1737988) | about a year ago | (#44494461)

The most intelligent marine mammals (orca, bottlenose dolphin, sperm whale) are predators though. The top primates (humans, chimpanzees) are omnivores.

Layman's explanation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44476617)

Dino, from Bedrock, was ready to eat the Acme Birdseed. He was "smarter than the average bear."

Re:Layman's explanation (1)

JustOK (667959) | about a year ago | (#44476951)

Memes confused you have
-Dr Spock, Planet Druidia

Dupe (1)

ArgonautThief (2611499) | about a year ago | (#44476793)

Posted last week.

Re:Dupe (1)

PPH (736903) | about a year ago | (#44477459)

Chalk it up to small brain size.

What's brain size got to do with it? (1)

Viol8 (599362) | about a year ago | (#44476809)

Hummingbird brains are tiny yet they're probably the best acrobatic flyers the bird world has. Geese have much larger brains but they're as dumb as hell compared to the highly intelligent crow family.

It's probably brain to body size. (5, Informative)

anss123 (985305) | about a year ago | (#44477073)

It's probably brain to body size.

The Neanderthals had bigger brains than us (and so does elephants), but our brains are larger compared to our bodies.

Re:It's probably brain to body size. (1)

MightyYar (622222) | about a year ago | (#44477243)

Yes, you need a certain amount of motor-control brain, and the more muscle you have, the more mass you need for motor control. That's why it is not impressive that a giraffe has a bigger brain than a rhesus monkey. Or, similarly, that a human has 4-5 times less brain mass than an elephant.

Re:It's probably brain to body size. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44477989)

The Neanderthals had bigger brains than us (and so does elephants)

I sincerely hope English is a second language to you, because you really suck at it. So do Elephants. I stay out of Spanish language forums because I'd look as stupid on one as you do here.

Re:It's probably brain to body size. (1)

anss123 (985305) | about a year ago | (#44478273)

I sincerely hope English is a second language to you, because you really suck at it. I stay out of Spanish language forums because I'd look as stupid on one as you do here.

Why are grammar nazis always so rude?

Re:It's probably brain to body size. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44484887)

We're not. Now, had you asked "Why are some grammar nazis so rude?" I'd have to response that it's because they're insecure or something. Some of us are grammar nazis because we can barely understand poorly written english (your failure would mess up my interpretation through my disability).

Re:It's probably brain to body size. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44490257)

If you think you can replace that statement with "some grammar nazis", then your understanding of English is poor. Newspaper headlines must blow your mind.

Re:It's probably brain to body size. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44501795)

They'd be called Grammar Friends then, wouldn't they?

So (2)

JustOK (667959) | about a year ago | (#44476933)

The brains allowed them to stand in long lines waiting for their genitals to be groped, and then subject to horrible service and food?

Re:So (1)

Cro Magnon (467622) | about a year ago | (#44479045)

The brains allowed them to stand in long lines waiting for their genitals to be groped, and then subject to horrible service and food?

They were smart enough to fly under their own power, thus avoiding the above.

Re:So (1)

excelsior_gr (969383) | about a year ago | (#44480719)

The brains allowed them to stand in long lines waiting for their genitals to be groped, and then subject to horrible service and food?

No, you're thinking McDonald's.

The Archaeopteryx is not a bird... (-1)

womby68 (1756988) | about a year ago | (#44476983)

The Archaeopteryx is not a bird, birds evolved from theropods (i.e. Allosaurus, Carnotaurus, T-Rex...) have fun... and fuck id cheers

Re:The Archaeopteryx is not a bird... (4, Informative)

Sique (173459) | about a year ago | (#44477389)

But the Archaeopteryx is a theropod (actually, it is a paravus, which makes it a maniraptor, which in turn are theropods). Thus your argument does not hold.

And yes, the Archaeopteryx is not a bird, but an extremely close relative to the first bird. The paraves include the aviales, which are "the birds".

This *sounds* like pretty flimsy reasoning (3, Insightful)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about a year ago | (#44477115)

researchers found that at least a few non-avian dinosaurs had brains as large or larger than Archaeopteryx, one of the earliest known birds, indicating that some dinosaurs already suspected of flight capability would have had the neurological tools to do so.

So if something has a brain bigger than something that we know can fly, it could probably learn to fly too if you stuck wings on it? T. Rex brains were larger than humans', but I wouldn't fancy one's chances at beating me at Streetfighter II.

In the interests of balance and reason, I should say that I'm going to assume we're missing out on some key facts thanks to some dumbed-down reporting, not because the researchers aren't doing proper science.

This *sounds* like pretty flimsy science. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44477407)

A lot of science is like that. The most tenuous of threads.

That's because they came from dragons! (1)

Alejux (2800513) | about a year ago | (#44477167)

Duh!

Duh? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44477253)

Umm... yes? I bet that things that fly need to be capible of flight before they can fly. Is this an article to weed out the illogical among us or something?

Dinosaur couldn't fly (1)

Tukz (664339) | about a year ago | (#44477367)

I seem to remember being taught there weren't any flying dinosaurs.
Pterodactyl, Pteranodon, etc, weren't dinosaurs, they were reptiles.

Never studied it intensely, so it could be a matter of details though.

Re:Dinosaur couldn't fly (2)

slapyslapslap (995769) | about a year ago | (#44477595)

I seem to remember being taught there weren't any flying dinosaurs. Pterodactyl, Pteranodon, etc, weren't dinosaurs, they were reptiles.

Never studied it intensely, so it could be a matter of details though.

There were flying dinosaurs. In fact, there still are flying dinosaurs. The ones that still exist are commonly referred to as "birds". They are theropods.

Re:Dinosaur couldn't fly (1)

squiggleslash (241428) | about a year ago | (#44479413)

Funny, I was kinda taught the opposite, that Pterodactyls were "flying Dinosaurs" but "completely unrelated to Birds" who were "entirely different" from Dinosaurs.

Turned out that a combination of my teachers not actually being that on-it, and the movement of science over the last 30-35 years, has meant I've had to relearn a lot of stuff that's turned out to be completely opposite to what I was taught.

Birds? Those are direct descendents of dinosaurs. Some even consider them "living" dinosaurs. There were even, according to the fossil evidence, dinos with feathers, which may even have been the majority - they didn't look like Rhinos/Hippos/Elephants, which makes sense given those are completely unrelated. If Jurassic Park were remade today, the CGI would be completely different.

Re:Dinosaur couldn't fly (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44479539)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pterosaurs

"Pterosaurs are often referred to in the popular media and by the general public as flying dinosaurs, but this is incorrect. The term "dinosaur" is restricted to just those reptiles descended from the last common ancestor of the groups Saurischia and Ornithischia (clade Dinosauria, which includes birds), and current scientific consensus is that this group excludes the pterosaurs, as well as the various groups of extinct marine reptiles, such as ichthyosaurs, plesiosaurs, and mosasaurs.[6] Pterosaurs are also incorrectly referred to as pterodactyls, particularly by journalists.[7] "Pterodactyl" refers specifically to members of the genus Pterodactylus,[8] and more broadly to members of the suborder Pterodactyloidea.[9][10]"

Re:Dinosaur couldn't fly (1)

Smauler (915644) | about a year ago | (#44481533)

The "reptile" class is a pretty crappy one... it's basically just a catch all for vertebrates that aren't something else. For example, crocodiles are more closely related to birds than they are to snakes or lizards. All of the aforementioned along with dinosaurs are more closely related to each other than they are to turtles (though this is coming under increased scrutiny - there are calls to move turtles back to diapsida).

Basically, our groups are a little crap, confused and vague, and dividing species into classes etc is notoriously difficult. This [wikipedia.org] page has a table about half way down that's relevant - basically Lepidosauromorpha consists of snakes, lizards, pleisaurs, possibly turtles (no one really knows), and other stuff. Archosauromorpha consists of birds, crocodiles, pterosaurs, and other stuff. "Reptile" commonly refers to some in one clade, some in the other clade, and some outside both of these clades.

Size isn't everything... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44477565)

Just look at crows. Pound for pound they're some of the smartest and most capable animals around. Total grey matter is nice... but having light, efficient cognitive processes is critical for staying in the air on a tight weight budget.

Evolution B.S. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44478787)

Evolution is B.S. Why don't we see it today? cause it takes 100,000 years for major change. I been told. OK so the earth is how old? so all evolution happens at the same time then? Shouldn't over the years the human race been around we should have seen pigs grow wings or birds grow for legs or even human grow wings? Nope so Evolution is B.S.

Journalist misinterprets research article (4, Interesting)

OneAhead (1495535) | about a year ago | (#44478871)

The MSNBC journalist is reading way, way too much from the Nature paper. All the latter (and its cited sources) say is that a large brain is thought to be a prerequisite for flight, and that the overall brain morphology found in birds is also found in dinosaurs. The journalist implicitly assumes that this brain morphology has evolved for flight, but this is not a given. Bats have a different brain morphology (though there are some similarities) and are quite nimble fliers. Also, feathers are useful for flight (though bats don't have them), but they're also great for keeping warm (anyone ever tried a feather comforter?), and non-flying dinosaurs had them possibly for that purpose. I'm chalking the present finding in the same column as the feathers: turns out having a large brain with strong and fast spatial visualization ability is useful for other things than flying (who'd have thought, right?), and that avians simply inherited this trait from dinosaurs along with their brain morphology (and undoubtedly fine-tuned it). If anything, the present research adds to the (bat-brain) evidence saying that the overall brain morphology found in birds didn't specifically evolve for the purpose of flight.
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