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T-Rex smart enough to build culture and gadgets? The amazing theory that is under discussion

Research has concluded that some dinosaurs, including T-Rex, were potentially smart enough to “build tools” or “build culture” on their own scale. But the amazing aspect of the notes is the qualification, because it is about predictions. The scientific community appears divided.

According to him, the brain of T. Rex, this famous carnivorous dinosaur, contains more than 3 billion neurons published works End of December 2022. It is equivalent to a baboon. This would be valid for other theropod dinosaurs such as Allosaurus. A statement far from the popular image of these ancient organisms.

According to neurobiologist Susan Herculano-Hozel, lead author of this study, this number of neurons ” I mean, he has what it takes to build tools, solve problems, and live to be 40, which is enough to build a culture Adding, in his tweet :” Reality is more terrifying than the movies! »

The scientist goes even further, answering a question from a user who asks her what she means by the word “culture” for dinosaurs: ” How to uproot trees and use them as toothpicks and spears. How to stealthily approach prey despite its size. How do we conserve energy? How to identify sick animals and avoid eating them. I’m making everything now, but the possibilities are endless… »

But how did Suzanne Herculano-Hozel and her team come to such a conclusion? And given the somewhat startling dimension of Susan Herculano-Hozel’s observations, at what point should we take them at face value?

Dinosaurs had as many neurons as primates, according to this study

The study of the dinosaur brain is not without a major snag: Brain tissue is not preserved for the millions of years that separate us from this distant era. Nowadays, computers have come to advance paleontology: when the cranial box is properly ossified, and in good condition, we can Computed tomography. If the scaling relationship between brain mass and the number of neurons of a clade (species group) is known, This relationship can be applied to estimate the neuronal structure of the brain Susan Herculano-Hozel wrote in the introduction to the paper.

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Susan Herculano Hozelle with a life-size reproduction of a T-Rex Sue skull. // Source : Susan Herculano Hozel

Susan Herculano-Hozelle’s team then correlated the craniofacial data for these dinosaurs with data for similar species extant today: birds, testodenes (turtles), and crustaceans (lizards, snakes, etc.). This amounts to extrapolating what we know about some species, such as ostriches, to dinosaurs.

From this comparative analysis they reached a conclusion. Theropod dinosaurs such as Tyrannosaurus and Allosaurus had a similar number of neurons as baboon (3 billion neurons) for the former, and apes (1 billion) for the latter. So not only would they be fierce giants, but Long-lived animals with flexible cognition “, And therefore ” Even more wonderful predators than previously thought Study adds.

They were the primates of their time Susan Herculano Hozel says on it blog.

Between new hypotheses and ideas, the clever T.Rex shares the scientists

Obviously, such assertions cause the scientific community to react. Zoologist Kay Kaspar, who specializes in primates, has it produce a long thread Point out some of the shortcomings of his study. Many of these elements relate to the method of analysis itself—concepts he considers ” Abstract It is not unanimous.

“It’s mostly a guess.”

Kay Caspar on Twitter

He also criticizes his conclusion about the possibility of using tools and culture. Simply because of the wrong prediction of the number of neurons He writes that tools are not universal among primates or birds. As for culture: There is not even a consensus among primatologists as to whether chimpanzees have social behaviors that can be considered culture, even though we have studied them extensively for decades. In my opinion, starting discussions on this topic by focusing on dinosaurs is pointless. »

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Kai Kaspar also recalls the theoretical nature of such work: “ Needless to say, these are mostly guesses and we have no way of knowing if they are correct. »

“I welcome the articulation of big ideas to advance science.”

Amy Balanov in The Washington Post

But scientists also believe that this work contributes to building an understanding of dinosaurs, and this opens up new possibilities. ” The study as a whole is an important step in understanding the evolution of brain structure and function in modern birds. Biologist Amy Palanov says, In The Washington Post. As for the T.Rex’s ability to develop a culture, she believes in the idea.” amazing But the nuances are the same too: I don’t know if we’re actually able to make that prediction. (…) However, I welcome the articulation of big ideas for the advancement of science. »

According to her, it is about exploring this path by looking for more clues. The fact of openness to possibility makes it possible to open up the horizon of the elements to be searched for: If they were hunters, you might find evidence that they hunted in groups using some form of social communication. If you have no reason to expect it, you will not be looking for this guide. »

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Thecodontosaurus.  // Source: Mario Lanzas

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