Remarkable preservation of brain tissues in an Early Cretaceous iguanodontian dinosaur

Martin Brasier, David Norman, Alex Liu, Laura J Cotton, Jamie Hiscocks, Russell Garwood, Jonathan Antcliffe, David Wacey

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter in a book

9 Citations (Scopus)
315 Downloads (Pure)


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.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEarth System Evolution and Early Life
Subtitle of host publicationa Celebration of the Work of Martin Brasier
PublisherGeological Society of London
Number of pages16
ISBN (Print)9781786202796
Publication statusPublished - 2017

Publication series

NameSpecial Publications
PublisherGeological Society
ISSN (Print)0305-8719


  • Dinosaur
  • Brain
  • Cretaceous
  • Dinosauria
  • ornithopoda
  • iguanodontia
  • iguanadon
  • hypselospinus
  • barilium
  • brain structure
  • meninges
  • vasculature
  • collophane
  • siderite
  • mineralised tissues

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