In birds, the brain (especially the telencephalon) is remarkably developed, both in relative volume and complexity. Unlike in most early-branching sauropsids, the adults of birds and other archosaurs have a well-ossified neurocranium. In contrast to the situation in most of their reptilian relatives but similar to what can be seen in mammals, the brains of birds fit closely to the endocranial cavity so that their major external features are reflected in the endocasts. This makes birds a highly suitable group for palaeoneurological investigations. The first observation about the brain in a long-extinct bird was made in the first quarter of the 19th century. However, it was not until the 2000s and the application of modern imaging technologies that avian palaeoneurology really took off. Understanding how the mode of life is reflected in the external morphology of the brains of birds is but one of several future directions in which avian palaeoneurological research may extend. Although the number of fossil specimens suitable for palaeoneurological explorations is considerably smaller in birds than in mammals and will very likely remain so, the coming years will certainly witness a momentous strengthening of this rapidly growing field of research at the overlap between ornithology, palaeontology, evolutionary biology and neurosciences.© 2020 Anatomical Society.
February 10, 2020