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Conchoraptor (Oviraptorosauria) avian-like brain

Ben Creisler

New in PLoS ONE:

Amy M. Balanoff l, G. S. Bever & Mark A. Norell (2014)
Reconsidering the Avian Nature of the Oviraptorosaur Brain
(Dinosauria: Theropoda).
PLoS ONE 9(12): e113559.

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.