Are we one step closer to Jurassic Park? Probably not, but researchers do believe they've found the first ever example of fossilized brain tissue from a dinosaur, National Geographic reports. The fossil was found on an English beach in 2004, but its unique trait—mineralized pieces of brain tissue—was announced in a study Thursday. "The chances of preserving brain tissue are incredibly small, so the discovery of this specimen is astonishing," Phys.org quotes study coauthor Alex Liu as saying. Researchers believe the dinosaur, a relative of the Iguanodon, sank upside down into a pond after it died. The pond water "essentially pickled" the dinosaur's brain, and the pickled tissue was eventually replaced by minerals.
The outer millimeter of the fossil seems to include mineralized blood vessels and bits of the membrane that covered the brain, NPR reports. Researchers believe it may also contain mineralized pieces of the brain itself. “That is the nearest I suspect we’re ever going to get to the whole [brain],” paleontologist David Norman tells NatGeo. One result of the new discovery: Researchers say it may show dinosaurs were smarter than we've been giving them credit for. In modern reptiles, the brain doesn't take up the entire brain case in the skull. That appears not to have been the case in this dinosaur, meaning it may have had a larger brain than previously believed. Norman says it appears the dino was at least as smart as a modern crocodile. (A bus-sized dinosaur comes with a surprise.)