If you're seeing this message, it means we're having trouble loading external resources on our website.

If you're behind a web filter, please make sure that the domains *.kastatic.org and *.kasandbox.org are unblocked.

Main content

How intelligent were dinosaurs?

By measuring the size of the brain cavity in available dinosaur skulls, it's clear that some dinosaurs had relatively larger brains than others and that dinosaurs' brains were not unusually small compared to those of living reptiles, such as crocodiles, turtles and lizards. Does this mean they were equally intelligent? Not necessarily. One can also examine the organization of the three main parts of the brain: the stem, which regulates heartbeat, respiration and other functions; the cerebellum, which coordinates muscle movements; and the cerebrum, which is involved with complex sensory functions and memory. In Velociraptor and its close relatives, the cerebrum and cerebellum appear large and bird-like, possibly indicating enhanced abilities. Created by American Museum of Natural History.

Want to join the conversation?

Video transcript

Measuring the intelligence of a dinosaur is a very difficult thing. One of the things that people have used is called EQ coefficient which is basically how large the brain is relative to the body size this has its problems and doesn't have its problems. It's not just how big the brain is but how big certain parts of the brain are and we know from living animals that animals which smell very well, that they have very large olfactory lobes in in their brains. Animals which, you know, see very well, have very accute vision and stuff, have greatly expanded optic lobes. So a lot of this work is just starting to be done and really the advent of cat scan technology which allows us to be able to reconstruct the brains of extinct dinosaurs, has really pushed a long way in just a few years, but again the work is very preliminary and its still very hard to correlate specific brain features with particular either senses or aspects of intelligence.