Neurovascular anatomy of dwarf dinosaur implies precociality in sauropods.Elife. 2022 12 20; 11E
Macronaria, a group of mostly colossal sauropod dinosaurs, comprised the largest terrestrial vertebrates of Earth's history. However, some of the smallest sauropods belong to this group as well. The Late Jurassic macronarian island dwarf Europasaurus holgeri is one of the most peculiar and best-studied sauropods worldwide. So far, the braincase material of this taxon from Germany pended greater attention. With the aid of micro-computed tomography (microCT), we report on the neuroanatomy of the nearly complete braincase of an adult individual, as well as the inner ears (endosseous labyrinths) of one other adult and several juveniles (the latter also containing novel vascular cavities). The presence of large and morphologically adult inner ears in juvenile material suggests precociality. Our findings add to the diversity of neurovascular anatomy in sauropod braincases and buttress the perception of sauropods as fast-growing and autonomous giants with manifold facets of reproductive and social behaviour. This suggests that - apart from sheer size - little separated Europasaurus from its large-bodied relatives.