Crocodiles Listening to Bach

Sophisticated cultured crocodiles.

German biopsychologists put a crocodile in a functional MRI and exposed it to auditory stimuli, while watching to see how its reptilian brain behaved.

This is of some interest in evolutionary terms, since crocodilians are supposed to be related to the common ancestors of mammals, birds and (yes) dinosaurs. In fact crocodiles seem little changed for the last 200 million years. (Multicellular animals aren't much more than 500 million years old.)

Well, it turns out that crocodile brains behave much like bird and mammal brains do. The more complicated the stimulus, the more of their brains are active.

Complex sounds (like J.S. Bach) make crocodile brains much more active than simple sounds. (Hard to know what kind of subjective effect that has for the crocodile.)

Thus it appears that the brain's response to complex auditory stimuli is rather old in evolutionary terms. So dinosaurs might have been able to respond to complex sounds much as mammals and birds do today. It makes me wonder whether they produced bird-song like vocalizations as signals to each other. (The skulls of some dinosaurs possess what look like resonators that might have been involved in sound-making.)

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