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Patron: Her Majesty the Queen


The Royal Scottish Society of Arts
Showcasing Scotland's Science, Technology and Innovation

1st Meeting of the 194th Session (2014-2015)

Dr Stig A Walsh

Dr Stig A Walsh

Evolution of the bird brain in a (empty) nutshell

Dr Stig A Walsh
Senior Curator of Vertebrate Palaeobiology
National Museums of Scotland

In the Augustine United Church
41 George IV Bridge
Edinburgh, EH1 1EL
On Monday 29th September 2014, at 7pm

Birds receive bad press about their brain size, yet avian intelligence actually exceeds that of many mammals. Bird brains are enlarged compared with those of their dinosaur ancestors, and as much of this expansion occurred in the forebrain and cerebellum it has traditionally been assumed to relate to the evolution of flight. Brains do not fossilise, but the internal surface of the brain cavity records the external shape of the brain in extinct birds and dinosaurs. Using X-ray micro-CT methods we can now determine brain shape in most fossilised bird skulls, and this talk will reveal what recent research has discovered about how the avian brain evolved.

Dr Stig Walsh is Senior Curator of Vertebrate Palaeobiology at National Museums Scotland. He previously worked at the Natural History Museum in London on a variety of research projects, and as an X-ray tomographer. His research investigates the evolution of the central nervous system in fossil animals, a branch of palaeontology called 'palaeoneurology'. Stig's research uses X-ray micro computed tomographic analysis to peer inside fossil skulls to reconstruct the external shape of the brain. He is specifically interested in determining how the brain and senses of modern birds have evolved from their theropod dinosaur ancestors.

Location of meeting

Complimentary tea, coffee and biscuits are served from about 6:40pm onwards before the meetings.

Members of the Public are welcome to attend

Dr Jane Ridder-Patrick, Secretary
Telephone: 0131 556 2161

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