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Dromornithid brain

This article is from the Sydney Morning Herald.  (It's already Monday in 
Australia) ...

Monday, June 14, 1999 

Sharp-eyed giant dinosaur bird could barely even smell 

By JAMES WOODFORD, Science Writer 

A 20-million-year-old cast of the brain of an extinct bird - complete with 
the imprint of blood vessels
and evidence of both highly developed sight and extremely poor smell - has 
been found by a team of
scientists working in the World-Heritage-listed Riversleigh fossil site.

The fossil was found last week and is believed to be the remains of a group 
of thunder birds, or
dromornithids. Dromornithids include some of the largest birds that have 
ever lived - weighing up to
500 kilograms.

The director of the Australian Museum and long-time researcher of the 
Riversleigh fossil site in far
north-west Queensland, Dr Mike Archer, said: "This is the brain of the demon 
duck of doom.

"It looks to be a bird with stunning visual capacity. It was ferociously 
well sighted but it has
olfactory lobes that are pathetically tiny. It couldn't smell its own poo if 
it stepped in it."

While some thunderbirds had heads the size of a horse, the fossil brain now 
in Sydney can fit into
the palm of a hand.

The fossil includes the brain stem right through to the point where it 
passes into the vertebrae and
becomes the spinal cord.

It is at least six times bigger than an emu brain and bigger than the brain 
of any bird alive today. The
cast of the brain is so perfectly preserved that, according to Dr Archer, 
"the only thing you need to
imagine is what it was thinking".

The curator of birds at the Australian Museum, Mr Walter Boles, said the 
area of the cerebellum
responsible for motor control also seemed a bit small - possibly because the 
creature was flightless.

Mr Boles said the skull could provide clues as to whether it was a hunter or 
a herbivore.

"If these things were predatory, perhaps they will share certain 
characteristics with birds of prey,"
Mr Boles said.