The braincase of Malawisaurus dixeyi (Sauropoda: Titanosauria): A 3D reconstruction of the brain endocast and inner ear.PLoS One. 2019; 14(2):e0211423.Plos
A braincase of the Cretaceous titanosaurian sauropod Malawisaurus dixeyi, complete except for the olfactory region, was CT scanned and a 3D rendering of the endocast and inner ear was generated. Cranial nerves appear in the same configuration as in other sauropods, including derived features that appear to characterize titanosaurians, specifically, an abducens nerve canal that passes lateral to the pituitary fossa rather than entering it. Furthermore, the hypoglossal nerve exits the skull via a single foramen, consistent with most titanosaurians, while other saurischians, including the basal titanosauriform, Giraffatitan, contain multiple rootlets. The size of the vestibular labyrinth is smaller than in Giraffatitan, but larger than in most derived titanosaurians. Similar to the condition found in Giraffatitan, the anterior semicircular canal is larger than the posterior semicircular canal. This contrasts with more derived titanosaurians that contain similarly sized anterior and posterior semicircular canals, congruent with the interpretation of Malawisaurus as a basal titanosaurian. Measurements of the humerus of Malawisaurus provide a body mass estimate of 4.7 metric tons. Comparison of body mass to radius of the semicircular canals of the vestibular labyrinth reveals that Malawisaurus fits the allometric relationship found in previous studies of extant mammals and Giraffatitan brancai. As in Giraffatitan, the anterior semicircular canal is significantly larger than is predicted by the allometric relationship suggesting greater sensitivity and slower movement of the head in the sagittal plane.