Reconsidering the avian nature of the oviraptorosaur brain (Dinosauria: Theropoda)

Amy M. Balanoff, G. S. Bever, Mark A. Norell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The high degree of encephalization characterizing modern birds is the product of a long evolutionary history, our understanding of which is still largely in its infancy. Here we provide a redescription of the endocranial space of the oviraptorosaurian dinosaur Conchoraptor gracilis with the goal of assessing the hypothesis that it shares uniquely derived endocranial characters with crown-group avians. The existence of such features has implications for the transformational history of avian neuroanatomy and suggests that the oviraptorosaur radiation is a product of the immediate stem lineage of birds-after the divergence of Archaeopteryx lithographica. Results derived from an expanded comparative sample indicate that the strong endocranial similarity between Conchoraptor and modern birds largely reflects shared conservation of plesiomorphic features. The few characters that are maintained as being uniquely expressed in these two taxa are more likely products of convergence than homology but still indicate that the oviraptorosaur endocranial cavity has much to teach us about the complex history of avian brain evolution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere113559
JournalPloS one
Volume9
Issue number12
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 10 2014
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General

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