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TagSuzana Herculano-Houzel

Tyrannosaurus Rex in the jungle. Generative AI.

Was the Tyrannosaur as Smart as a Monkey? Assessing a New Claim

One researcher argues that, based on bird studies, the huge predators may have had many more brain cells than we have supposed

Vanderbilt University neuroscientist Suzana Herculano-Houzel tells us, in a recent paper, that tyrannosaurs had similar numbers of brain neurons as “primates.” But how would we know? Herculano-Houzel stats with the assumption that dinosaurs are descended from birds and makes a distinction between the theropod dinosaurs like the tyrannosaur and others: From that assumption, Herculano-Houzel realized that theropods in particular had a similar correlation between body mass and brain size to pre-impact birds, or basal birds. From there, she used the neuron count of modern birds like emus and ostritches and applied the same rules of scaling to figure out how many neurons theropods like the T-Rex may have had. Frank Landymore, “In terrifying news, big brained T-rex may have been Read More ›

Pair of ravens in courtship. Corvus corax

Why Does Science Embrace the “Talking Animals” Myth?

Many birds are quite smart but why do some researchers imply that they think like people?

In recent years, studies have confirmed a widespread cultural intuition that some birds, particularly corvids like crows and ravens, are “smart.” They show considerable problem-solving skills. Thus, they loom large in mythology as messengers and tricksters. For example, the Norse king of the gods (pictured) had two ravens as advisors. Oddly enough, science today retains the mythology and makes a curious use of it: New discoveries about the specifics of corvid brain organization and intelligence are framed as demonstrating that humans do not really have as exceptional thinking ability as we suppose: Research unveiled on Thursday in Science finds that crows know what they know and can ponder the content of their own minds, a manifestation of higher intelligence and Read More ›