In an interesting new paper in the latest issue of Science, paleontologists draw some sweeping conclusions about brain evolution by examining skulls of some 190 million year old creatures on the road to becoming mammals.
It may not have been survival of the smartest but of the keenest sniffers that pushed the brains of early mammals to grow far bigger and more complex than those of their reptilian ancestors.
A group of paleontologists announced Friday that they had used CT scanning to analyze the skulls of ancient creatures on the evolutionary path to becoming mammals, and found most of the brain growth occurred in the smell center - the olfactory bulb.
"We associate the brain's primary function with thinking," said Zhe-Xi Luo, a paleontologist at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, who was part of the team. "But we didn't get our brain for thinking - we got our brain for the more basic and primitive needs."