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Publication - Dr Laura Cotton

    Remarkable preservation of brain tissues in an Early Cretaceous iguanodontian dinosaur


    Brasier, M, Norman, D, Liu, A, Cotton, LJ, Hiscocks, J, Garwood, R, Antcliffe, J & Wacey, D, 2017, ‘Remarkable preservation of brain tissues in an Early Cretaceous iguanodontian dinosaur’. in: Earth System Evolution and Early Life: a Celebration of the Work of Martin Brasier. Geological Society of London, pp. 383-398


    It has become accepted in recent years that the fossil record can preserve labile tissues. Here we report highly detailed mineralisation of soft tissues associated with a naturally occurring brain endocast of an iguanodontian dinosaur, found in ~133 Ma fluvial sediments of the Wealden at Bexhill, Sussex, U.K. Moulding of the braincase wall, and mineral replacement of adjacent brain tissues by phosphates and carbonates, permits direct examination of petrified brain tissues. SEM imaging and CT-scanning reveal preservation of the tough membranes (meninges) that enveloped and supported the brain proper. Collagen strands of the meningeal layers are preserved in collophane. Blood vessels, also preserved in collophane, are either lined by, or infilled with, microcrystalline siderite. Meninges are preserved in the hindbrain region, and exhibit structural similarities with those of living archosaurs. Greater definition of the forebrain (cerebrum) compared to 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 likely results from settling of brain tissues against the roof of the braincase following inversion of the skull during decay and burial.

    Full details in the University publications repository