Scientists have discovered how birds evolved brain

An international team of evolutionary biologists and paleontologists have reconstructed the evolution of the brain of birds, using a large data set on the volume of the brain of dinosaurs, extinct birds such as Archaeopteryx and flightless Razorbill, and modern types. On their study, the scientists said in the article of the journal Current Biology.

Although the evolution of the animals studied for quite some time, it is still a lot of “white spots”. The authors of the new study decided to find out what changes have occurred with the brain of birds during their evolution from dinosaurs to recent species. For this, the researchers used computed tomography data of hundreds of birds and dinosaurs, which they combined with a large existing database of measurements of the brain of modern birds. This allowed the authors to create endocrine model of the brain based on the form of the cranial cavity. Then they analyzed the allometry — how brain size correlates with body size.

“there is No clear boundary between the brain advanced dinosaurs and primitive birds, says study co-author Dr. Amy Balanoff from Johns Hopkins University. — These birds, like EMUs and pigeons, brains about the same size as predatory dinosaurs, and some species, such as MoA, they are even less than expected”.

Earlier work showed that the two groups of birds with truly exceptional size of the brain has evolved relatively recently — it’s parrots and corvids. These groups of birds are really good cognitive abilities. For example, they can use for their own purposes various things and have developed language and is able to memorize human faces. A new study has shown that parrots and corvids was a very high rate of evolution of the brain, which may have helped them reach such a large size of the brain relative to the whole body.

“some groups of birds can be observed a higher average rate of evolution of the size of the brain and body, says co-author Dr Adam Smith from the Geology Museum the Bob Campbell at Clemson University. But corvids really confused us — they are ahead of all the other birds. Our results show that the expression "you have a brain like a bird" can even be seen as a compliment.”