It might just look like a rock, but this oversized pebble is a whole lot more than meets the eye.
NPR reports a team of researchers have analyzed the small fossil, discovered by a collector in 2004, and believe it is the first ever example of fossilized brain matter from a dinosaur. This little fossil is so special because the mineralization reveals the “soft tissue structures” of the brain, which had not decayed before the fossilization took place.
The brain matter comes from a a large herbivore species related to Iguanodon. To determine it was actually brain matter, the team zoomed in to find what appears to be remnants of the supportive membrane surrounding the brain, along with the blood vessels and cortices you would expect to actually find in a dinosaur brain.
The dino lived around 130 million years ago, and the fossil was found in the United Kingdom. Scientists think it probably died near a body of water, where the sediment and lack of oxygen helped preserve the brain enough for the fossilization to form.
For scientists, it’s a fascinating peek into something other than just the bones of these creatures — and could inspire them to look closer at other fossils to see if there might be evidence missed on the first time around.