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CT data and 3D models associated with: Palaeoneurology of the Early Cretaceous iguanodont Proa valdearinnoensis and its bearing on the parallel developments of cognitive abilities in theropod and ornithopod dinosaurs

Citation

Lautenschlager, Stephan et al. (2021), CT data and 3D models associated with: Palaeoneurology of the Early Cretaceous iguanodont Proa valdearinnoensis and its bearing on the parallel developments of cognitive abilities in theropod and ornithopod dinosaurs, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.mcvdnck1j

Abstract

Proa valdearinnoensis is a relatively large-headed and stocky iguanodontian dinosaur from the latest Early Cretaceous of Spain. Its braincase is known from three specimens. Similar to that of other dinosaurs, it shows a mosaic ossification pattern in which most of the bones seem to have fused together indistinguishably while a few bones (frontoparietal, basioccipital) might have remained loosely attached. The endocasts of the three specimens are described based on CT data and digital reconstructions. They show unmistakable morphological similarities with the endocast of closely related taxa, such as Sirindhorna khoratensis (which is close in age but from Thailand). This supports a high conservatism of the endocranial cavity. The issue of volumetric correspondence between endocranial cavity and brain in dinosaurs is analysed. Although a brain-to-endocranial cavity (BEC) index of 0.50 has been traditionally used, we employ instead  0.73. This is indeed the mid-value between the situation in adults of Alligator mississippiensis and Gallus gallus, which are members of the extant bracketing taxa of dinosaurs (Crocodilia and Aves). We thence gauge the level of encephalisation of Proa valdearinnoensis by the calculation of the Encephalisation Quotient (EQ), which remains valuable as a metric for assessing the degree of cognitive function in extinct taxa, especially those with fully ossified braincases like dinosaurs and other archosaurs. The EQ obtained for Proa valdearinnoensis (3.611) suggests that this species was significantly more encephalised than most if not all extant non-avian, non-mammalian amniotes. Our work adds to the growing body of data concerning theoretical cognitive capabilities in dinosaurs and supports the idea that increasing encephalisations were fostered not only once in theropods but also in parallel in the shorter-lived lineage of ornithopods. Proa valdearinnoensis was ill-equipped to respond to theropod dinosaurs and possibly lived in groups as a strategy to mitigate the risk of being predated upon. We hypothesize that group-living and protracted caring of juveniles in this and possibly many other iguanodontian ornithopods favoured a degree of encephalisation that was outstanding by reptile standards.