Ah, the age-old question of dinosaur intelligence! While for many years the popular perception was that these ancient creatures were little more than giant, lumbering beasts, recent discoveries have suggested that they were actually quite clever.
First of all, let’s talk about the brain-to-body size ratio. It’s long been thought that intelligence is correlated with the size of the brain relative to the body. And, as it turns out, some dinosaurs had brain-to-body size ratios that were actually quite similar to those of birds and mammals. For example, the raptor Velociraptor had a brain-to-body size ratio that was roughly equivalent to that of a chimpanzee.
But perhaps even more compelling than brain size is the evidence of sophisticated behaviors. For example, some dinosaurs appear to have been pack hunters working together to take down large prey. Others may have even exhibited forms of communication and social bonding.
Dinosaurs might have been as intelligent as modern primates
A recent study suggests that the brains of some dinosaurs were densely packed with neurons, similar to those of modern primates. This would mean that they were very intelligent and could have achieved feats such as using tools, which were previously thought to be only capable of humans and other intelligent animals.
The new research is controversial, with some paleontologists arguing that the neuron estimates are flawed, undercutting the study’s conclusions. The study was led by neuroanatomist Suzana Herculano-Houzel of Vanderbilt University, who used a different measure of intelligence: the density of neurons in the cortex, the wrinkly outer brain area critical to most intelligence-related tasks.
A dinosaur known as Alioramus, which stood about 6 meters in length and lived 70 million years ago in present-day Mongolia, had a similar number of neurons in its brain cortex as that of capuchin monkeys. Additionally, a T-Rex, with a brain mass of one-third of 1 kilogram, was estimated to have 3.3 billion cortical neurons. This density is higher than that of baboons.
The new study was published in the Journal of Comparative Neurology.