In 2004, Jamie Hiscocks found a strange fossil in Sussex, England. This wasn’t your typical fossil – researchers from the University of Oxford, University of Cambridge, and other international institutions now say the fossil is the first example of dinosaur brain tissue ever found. This extremely rare find comes from a dinosaur likely related to the herbivorous Iguanodon.
Hiscocks discovered the fossil, which is around 130 million years old, in a brown pebble unearthed from a beach rock pool. According to the University of Cambridge, the dinosaur’s meninges, cortical tissues, and capillaries were “preserved as mineral ‘ghosts’.” Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) imaging and computed tomography (CT) scanning helped the researchers to see the tissues. The specimen unfortunately doesn’t provide many clues into the size of the dinosaur’s brain, but its tissues do resemble those of modern-day birds and crocodiles.
According to the researchers, conditions must have been just right for the fossil to be preserved as it was, but they hope for similar discoveries in the future. Paper co-author David Norman of the University of Cambridge said in a statement, “What we think happened is that this particular dinosaur died in or near a body of water, and its head ended up partially buried in the sediment at the bottom. Since the water had little oxygen and was very acidic, the soft issues of the brain were likely preserved and cast before the rest of its body was buried in the sediment.”