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Brains of birds have a dinosaur source: Study


April 13, 2011 - Calgary (Canada)

Canadian researchers have opined that the brains of birds can be traced to a dinosaur source.

Their new research published in a journal of Britain's Royal Society traced 157 samples of the olfactory lineage of modern birds to a group of small carnivores called theropods whose larger family also included the Tyrannosaurus rex.

The study claims that early birds had the same olfactory capacity as a modern pigeon-pretty good and certainly better than expected.

Then, around 95 million years ago, birds that were the ancestor of modern birds, evolved an even better sense of smell.

Included in the fossils from this time was Bambiraptor, one of the key pieces of evidence for bird evolution.

A fast-moving critter about the size of a dog, Bambiraptor was unable to fly, but its body was probably covered in feathers and its skeleton was astonishingly similar to fleet-footed birds like roadrunner.

It had roughly the smell capacity as turkey vultures and albatrosses today, which rely on smell to forage or navigate over long distances, the researchers found.

"Our discovery that small velociraptor-like dinosaurs such as Bambiraptor had a sense of smell as developed as these birds suggests that smell may have played an important role while these dinosaurs hunted for food," The Sydney Morning Herald quotes Darla Zelenitsky, a University of Calgary palaeontologist, as saying.

Among modern birds, sense of smell varies widely, the study found.

Relatively primitive birds such as ducks and flamingos have relatively large olfactory bulbs, while birds that are considered smarter, such as crows, finches and parrots, have smaller ones, presumably to compensate for higher brainpower.

The study appears in Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences.

ANI

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