When it Comes to Smarts, Dinosaurs Were More Like Crocodiles Than Monkeys

A team of international researchers has challenged previous claims that dinosaurs, such as the iconic Tyrannosaurus rex, possessed intelligence comparable to that of monkeys. The new study, published in The Anatomical Record, suggests that these prehistoric giants were more akin to modern-day crocodiles and lizards in terms of cognitive abilities.

Overestimating Dinosaur Brain Size and Neuron Counts

The researchers found that previous studies had overestimated the brain size of dinosaurs, particularly the forebrain, and consequently, the number of neurons their brains contained. “We argue that it’s not good practice to predict intelligence in extinct species when neuron counts reconstructed from endocasts are all we have to go on,” explained Dr. Kai Caspar from Heinrich Heine University, the lead author of the study.

The team also emphasized that neuron count estimates are not a reliable indicator of intelligence. “Neuron counts are not good predictors of cognitive performance, and using them to predict intelligence in long-extinct species can lead to highly misleading interpretations,” added Dr. Ornella Bertrand from the Institut Català de Paleontologia Miquel Crusafont.

A Multifaceted Approach to Understanding Dinosaur Biology

To accurately reconstruct the biology of long-extinct species like dinosaurs, the researchers argue that multiple lines of evidence should be considered. This includes skeletal anatomy, bone histology, the behavior of living relatives, and trace fossils. Hady George from the University of Bristol’s School of Earth Sciences explained, “Determining the intelligence of dinosaurs and other extinct animals is best done using many lines of evidence ranging from gross anatomy to fossil footprints instead of relying on neuron number estimates alone.”

While the idea of a T. rex possessing intelligence similar to a baboon is both fascinating and terrifying, the study shows that the available data does not support this notion. “They were more like smart giant crocodiles, and that’s just as fascinating,” concluded Dr. Darren Naish from the University of Southampton.

The study provides a more nuanced understanding of dinosaur cognition and highlights the importance of a multifaceted approach when investigating the biology of extinct species.

Keyword/phrase: dinosaur intelligence

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