Paleontological Journal

, 45:183 | Cite as

Brain structure and neurobiology of Alvarezsaurians (Dinosauria), exemplified by Ceratonykus oculatus (Parvicursoridae) from the Late Cretaceous of Mongolia

  • V. R. AlifanovEmail author
  • S. V. Saveliev


A natural braincase cast of the Late Cretaceous dinosaur Ceratonykus oculatus (Parvicursoridae, Alvarezsauria) is described. The brain of this species is constructed based on the reptilian archetype without dorsoventral curvatures. In the midbrain, the optic lobes are displaced ventrolaterally and the acoustic lobes are very large and adjoin rostrally the telencephalon. The cerebellum is bifid and transversely expanded. The complex of the metencephalon and myelencephalon narrows laterally. Some of the characters listed are not typical of the majority of extant and extinct sauropsids. It is concluded that alvarezsaurians had good eyesight and keen hearing and their ancestors were characterized by elements of an arboreal mode of life.


Mongolia Upper Cretaceous Dinosauria Alvarezsauria brain sense organs 


  1. Alifanov, V.R. and Barsbold, R., Ceratonykus oculatus gen. et sp. nov., a New Dinosaur (?Theropoda, Alvarezsauria) from the Late Cretaceous of Mongolia, Paleontol. Zh., 2009, no. 1, pp. 86–99 [Paleontol. J. (Engl. Transl.), vol. 43, no. 1, pp. 94–106].Google Scholar
  2. Alonso, P.D., Milner, A.C., Ketcham, R.A., et al., The Avian Nature of the Brain and Ear of Archaeopteryx, Nature, 2004, vol. 430, no. 7000, pp. 666–669.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bonaparte, J.F., Los vertebrados fósiles de la Formación Rio Colorado, de la ciudad de Neuquén y cercanias, Cretácico Superior, Argentina, Rev. Mus. Argent. Cienc. Natur. Paleontol. 1991, vol. 4, no. 3, pp. 17–123.Google Scholar
  4. Bonaparte, J.F., Cretaceous Tetrapods of Argentina, Münch. Geowiss. Abh., 1996, no. 30, pp. 73–130.Google Scholar
  5. Chiappe, L.M. and Coria, R.A., A New Specimen of Patagonykus puertai (Theropoda, Alvarezsauridae) from the Late Cretaceous of Patagonia, Ameghiniana, 2003, vol. 40, no. 1, pp. 119–122.Google Scholar
  6. Chiappe, L.M., Norell, M.A., and Clark, J.M., Phylogenetic Position of Mononykus (Aves: Alvarezsauridae) from the Late Cretaceous of the Gobi Desert, Mem. Queensland Mus., 1996, vol. 39, no. 3, pp. 557–582.Google Scholar
  7. Chiappe, L.M., Norell, M.A., and Clark, J.M., The Skull of a Relative of the Stem-Group Bird Mononykus, Nature, 1998, vol. 392, no. 6673, pp. 275–278.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Chiappe, L.M., Norell, M.A., and Clark, J.M., The Cretaceous, Short-armed Alvarezsauridae: Mononykus and Its Kin, in Mesozoic Birds: Above the Heads of Dinosaurs, Chiappe, L.M. and Witmer, L.M., Eds., Berkeley: Univ. California Press, 2002, pp. 87–120.Google Scholar
  9. Choiniere, J.N., Xu, X., Clark, J.M., et al., A Basal Alvarezsauroid Theropod from the Early Late Jurassic of Xinjiang, China, Science, 2010, vol. 327, no. 5965, pp. 571–574.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Forster, C.A., Sampson, S.D., Chiappe, L.M., et al., The Theropodan Ancestry of Birds: New Evidence from the Late Cretaceous of Madagascar, Science, 1998, vol. 279, pp. 1915–1919.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Hutchinson, J.R. and Chiappe, L.M., The First Known Alvarezsaurid (Theropoda: Aves) from North America, J. Vertebr. Paleontol., 1998, vol. 18, no. 3, pp. 447–450.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Karhu, A.A. and Rautian, A.S., A New Family of Maniraptora (Dinosauria: Saurischia) from the Late Cretaceous of Mongolia, Paleontol. Zh., 1996, no. 4, pp. 85–94 [Paleontol. J. (Engl. Transl.), vol. 30, no. 5, pp. 583–592].Google Scholar
  13. Kurochkin, E.N., Mezosoic Birds of Mongolia and the Former USSR, in The Age of Dinosaurs in Russia and Mongolia, Benton, M.J., Shishkin, M.A., and Unwin, D.M., Eds., Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2000. pp. 533–559.Google Scholar
  14. Kurochkin, E.N., Saveliev, S.V., Postnov, A.A., et al., On the Brain of a Primitive Bird from the Upper Cretaceous of European Russia, Paleontol. Zh., 2006, no. 6, pp. 69–80 [Paleontol. J. (Engl. Transl.), vol. 40, no. 6, pp. 655–667].Google Scholar
  15. Longrich, N.R. and Currie, P.J., Albertonykus borealis, a New Alvarezsaur (Dinosauria: Theropoda) from the Early Maastrichtian of Alberta, Canada: Implications for the Systematics and Ecology of Alvarezsauridae, Cret. Res., 2009, vol. 30, pp. 239–252.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Martin, L., The Difference between Dinosaurs and Birds As Applied to Mononykus, in Dinofest International: Proceedings of a Symposium Held at Arizona State University, Wolberg, D.L., Stump, E., and Rosenberg, G., Eds., Phoenix, Philadelphia: Acad. Natur. Sci., 1997, pp. 337–343.Google Scholar
  17. Martinelli, A.G. and Vera, E.I., Achillesaurus manazzonei, a New Alvarezsaurid Theropod (Dinosauria) from the Late Cretaceous Bajo de la Carpa Formation, Río Negro Province, Argentina, Zootaxa, 2007, no. 1582, pp. 1–17.Google Scholar
  18. Naish, D. and Dyke, G., Heptasteornis Was No Ornithomimid, Troodontid, Dromaeosaurid or Owl: The First Alvarezsaurid (Dinosauria: Theropoda) from Europe, Neues Jahrb. Paläontol. Mh., 2004, vol. 7, pp. 385–401.Google Scholar
  19. Nieuwenhuys, R., ten Donkelaar, H.J., and Nicholson, C., The Central Nervous System of Vertebrates, in Reptilies, Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer, 1997, vol. 2, pp. 1315–1524.Google Scholar
  20. Norell, M.A., Clark, J.M., and Mackovicky, P.J., Phylogenetic Relationships among Coelurosaurian Theropods, in New Perspectives on the Origin and Early Evolution of Birds: Proceedings of the International Symposium in Honor of John H. Ostrom, Gauthier, J.A. and Gall, L., Eds., New Haven: Peabody Mus. Natur. History., Yale Univ., 2001, pp. 49–67.Google Scholar
  21. Novas, F.E., Alvarezsauridae, Cretaceous Basal Birds from Patagonia and Mongolia, Mem. Queensland Mus., 1996, vol. 39, no. 3, pp. 675–702.Google Scholar
  22. Novas, F.E., Anatomy of Patagonykus puertai (Theropoda, Aviale, Alvarezsauridae), from the Late Cretaceous of Patagonia, J. Vertebr. Paleontol., 1997, vol. 17, no. 1, pp. 137–166.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Novas, F.E. and Pol, D., Alvarezsaurid Relationships Reconsidered, in Mesozoic Birds: Above the Heads of Dinosaurs, Chiappe, L.M. and Witmer, L.M., Eds., Berkeley: Univ. California Press, 2002, pp. 121–125.Google Scholar
  24. Ostrom, J.H., On the Origin of Birds and Avian Flight, in Major Features of Vertebrate Evolution, Prothero, D.R. and Schloch, R.M., Eds., Knoxville: Univ. Tennessee Press, 1994, pp. 160–177.Google Scholar
  25. Perle, A., Chiappe, L.M., Barsbold, R., et al., A Skeletal Morphology of Mononykus olecranus (Theropoda: Aviale) from the Late Cretaceous of Mongolia, Am. Mus. Novitat., 1994, no. 3105, pp. 1–29.Google Scholar
  26. Perle, A., Norell, M.A., Chiappe, L.M., et al., Flightless Bird from the Cretaceous of Mongolia, Nature, 1993a, vol. 362, no. 6421, pp. 623–626.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Perle, A., Norell, M.A., Chiappe, L.M., et al., Flightless Bird from the Cretaceous of Mongolia (Correction), Nature, 1993b, vol. 363, no. 6425, p. 188.Google Scholar
  28. Saveliev, S.V., Sravnitel’naya anatomiya nervnoi sistemy pozvonochnykh (Comparative Anatomy of the Nervous System of Vertebrates), Moscow: Geotar-med, 2001.Google Scholar
  29. Saveliev, S.V., Proiskhozhdenie mozga (The Origin of Brain), Moscow: Vedi, 2005.Google Scholar
  30. Saveliev, S.V. and Alifanov, V.R., A New Study of the Brain of the Predatory Dinosaur Tarbosaurus bataar (Theropoda, Tyrannosauridae), Paleontol. Zh., 2007, no. 3, pp. 47–55 [Paleontol. J. (Engl. Transl.), vol. 41, no. 3, pp. 281–289].Google Scholar
  31. Senter, Ph., Function in the Stunted Forelimbs of Mononykus olecranus (Theropoda), a Dinosaurian Anteater, Paleobiology, 2005, vol. 31, no. 3, pp. 373–381.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Sereno, P.C., The Evolution of Dinosaurs, Science, 1999, vol. 284, no. 5423, pp. 2137–2147.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Sereno, P.C., Alvarezsauridae: Birds or Ornithomimosaurs?, in New perspectives on the origin and early evolution of birds. Proceedings of the International Symposium in honor of John H. Ostrom, Gautier, J.A. and Gall, F., Eds., New Haven: Peabody Mus. Natur. Hist. Yale Univ., 2001, pp. 69–98.Google Scholar
  34. Suzuki, Sh. and Chiappe, L.M., Dyke, G.J., et al., A New Specimen of Shuvuuia deserti Chiappe et al., 1998, from the Mongolian Late Cretaceous with Discussion of the Relationships of the Alvarezsaurids to Other Theropod Dinosaurs, Contrib. Sci., 2002, no. 494, pp. 1–18.Google Scholar
  35. Turner, A.H., Nesbitt, S.J., and Norell, M.A., A Large Alvarezsaurid from the Late Cretaceous of Mongolia, Am. Mus. Novitat., 2009, no. 3648, pp. 1–14.Google Scholar
  36. Wellnhofer, P., New Data on the Origin and Early Evolution of Birds, CR Acad. Sci. Paris Ser. 2, 1994, vol. 319, pp. 299–308.Google Scholar
  37. Whetstone, K.N., Braincase of Mesozoic Birds: New Preparation of the “London” Archaeopteryx, J. Vertebr. Paleontol., 1983, vol. 2, no. 4, pp. 439–452.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Zhou, Zh., Is Mononykus a Bird?, Auk, 1995, vol. 112, no. 4, pp. 958–963.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Pleiades Publishing, Ltd. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Borissiak Paleontological InstituteRussian Academy of SciencesMoscowRussia
  2. 2.Scientific Research Institute of Human MorphologyRussian Academy of Medical SciencesMoscowRussia

Personalised recommendations