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Bird Brains Predate Birds Themselves

Avian brain_melanerpes

This CT scan shows a modern woodpecker (Melanerpes aurifrons) with its brain cast rendered opaque and the skull transparent. 

©AMNH/A. Balanoff


New research provides evidence that dinosaurs evolved the brainpower necessary for flight well before they actually took to the air as birds. Based on high-resolution X-ray computed tomographic (CT) scans, the study, published today in Nature, takes a comprehensive look at the so-called “bird brain.” Contrary to the cliché, the term describes a relatively enlarged brain that has the capacity required for flight and was present in one of the earliest known birds, Archaeopteryx. In the new study, scientists reveal that at least a few non-avian dinosaurs had brains that were as large or larger than that of Archaeopteryx, indicating that some dinosaurs already suspected of possessing flight capability would have had the neurological hardwiring necessary for this behavior. 

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