There is plenty of information about the biggest, longest, heaviest dinosaurs, but one superlative always overlooked is the smartest. What was the Smartest dinosaur? In the movies it is the velociraptor, but was that really the smartest of all the dinosaurs or were there less famous ones, with big brains and more intelligence. We take a look below.
The troodon was a theropod that lived during the late cretaceous. it is thought the most intelligent of all dinosaurs due to its brain size being considerably large compared to its size. It had excellent eyesight, smell and hearing and likely lived in packs all of which require a high level of intelligence.
We take a look at if the troodon should be considered the smartest dinosaur and what makes a dinosaur intelligent in the article below.
Was Troodon The smartest Dinosaur?
Some scientists and researchers believe that the cleverest dinosaurs of all time were the Troodontids. Most of these predatory dinosaurs had large brains and enlarged eyes, Lets see why the troodon family was considered the smartest of all the dinosaurs below.
What made the Troodon so Smart?
We look at the factors that make Troodon the smartest dinosaur.
- Troodon was known to run extremely fast, and its long back legs enabled it to hunt small prey. It was a fast-runner, with sharp claws on its toes. Moving fast to hunt quick moving prey requires a brain to be able to control that agility.
- Some scientists believe that Troodontids had binocular vision, and some scientists even say that they were smarter than modern birds, though this is debatable. Big eyes and good eyesight again require a larger brain to deal with the information they receive.
- According to scientists, Troodontids had the largest brain-to-body ratio of any non-avian dinosaur. The large brains of these animals and their massive eyes suggest that they were highly intelligent.
- The Average size of a troodon was about 5 ft long, the same as a 9-10 year old grade student, As national Geographic states a child’s brain at this stage is about the size of a baseball. ( smaller in some we are sure HAHA) where the troodons brain was the size of a golf ball. Yes smaller, but still pretty large for a dinosaur.
- it had a good sense of smell and hearing, again making the need for a brain big enough to deal with the extra information those senses produce.
- It is also thought that they may have hunted in packs and with others to take down larger prey, this requires cooperation and organization which are also signs of intelligence.
- The EQ of troodontid dinosaurs was very high for a dinosaur. They had large brains compared to their bodies, bigger than any other dinosaurs of the time,
All these factors combine to indicate that the troodon and others in its family were intelligent animals, for that time, compared to modern animals however there could not, for the most part, be considered intelligent.
How to measure Dinosaur intelligence?
While the Troodon brain-to-body ratio is comparable to emus and ostriches, it is still hard to determine exactly how much intelligence it had. Its size, however, does not seem to have affected its intelligence. This means that the Troodon brain is similar to that of modern birds, like the cassowary. They were intelligent and clever and the smartest dinosaur, but it thought not quite as clever as most mammals.
As mentioned above intelligence in animals can be judged by many different factors. Just a few of these include
- Quality and development of senses
- Working with others and in packs
- Maternal care, how they take care of eggs and young
- Sound recognition
- Problem solving
With long extinct animals there is only so much we can measure, so for what we know, and are likely ever to know unless we find a fossil velociraptor with a pen in its hand or something, the Troodon genus, includes the birdlike Troodon formosus, is thought to be the smartest dinosaur among all dinosaurs.
Carl Sagan’s 1977 science fiction novel, “The Dragons of Eden”, speculated on a potentially intelligent dinosaur. In The Dragons of Eden, he asked, “What if non-avian dinosaurs had survived the extinction process?” The idea spawned several science fiction stories and even science fact speculation With a paleontologist called Dale Russell researching what he thought would happen if the troodon hadn’t gone extinct and had continued evolving.
But anyway you look at it what was a bad day, when the asteroid hit, for the dinosaurs turned out to be a great day for us!
What Were the Five Most Intelligent Dinosaurs?
We admit we are pretty much reaching with a list like this as all we have to go one is brain size comparisons to size, thoughts around their behaviour, eye, hearing and smell abilities where we know them. However here is the list of top 5 smartest and most intelligent dinosaurs (probably)
- Troodon: As we have mentioned its brain size was bigger than any other dinosaur by size, with its senses like hearing smell and sight being well developed it was certainly intelligent.
- Deinonychus: The big brother to the velociraptor means a bigger brain in a bigger package
- Velociraptor ( with some bias due to movies) Small, probably hunted in packs, good vision make this a likely intelligence dinosaur.
- Compsognathus: Again a possible pack animal which requires a level of intelligence, and good smell and eyesight.
- Tyrannosaurus Rex: Compared to most other large predator T-Rex actually had a reasonably sized brain a great sense of smell and good eyesight as well.
What does EQ mean?
In the 1970s, psychologist Harry Jerison proposed a theory known as the Encephalization Quotient (EQ) in which the brain size of a specific species was compared to the size of the body.
The Encephalisation Quotient, or EQ, is an animal’s intelligence based on its brain size to its body weight. The higher the ratio, the higher the EQ. However, the EQ is a relative measure, and there is no definitive proof that higher EQ means higher intelligence.
Nevertheless, this is currently the most accurate way to measure an animal’s intelligence. Although this method was used by psychologist Harry J. Jerison in the 1970s it was further refined by J. A. Hopson and colleagues.
Although dinosaurs have small brains when compared to their bodies, they exhibit unique traits, such as maternal care and flying ability. These unique traits could translate to an individual’s intelligence.
By comparing these traits to modern birds and mammals, scientists can gain an insight into the hierarchy of life on Earth.
How smart are modern birds?
Seeing as almost all research compares the intelligence of dinosaurs to modern birds or modern reptiles we though a quick word about that might help you out.
modern reptiles are fairly easy to classify, although there are a few variations. they are not intelligent. They have little need to be. They have shown no problem solving abilities, or memory other than instinctual. They eat, sleep, move and make more reptiles and thats about it.
However Modern birds, and it depends what birds of course, have shown to be able to show much more intelligence, at least how we view it anyway. The smartest, thought to be the African Grey Parrot, In research it has proven to be able to do the following.
- Associate sound and meaning
- Recognise 5 shapes and 7 colors
- Count to six
- Try to talk to other parrots in English (really)
- Use deductive reasoning on simple tasks
- Work with other parrots to complete a task and receive a reward
The african grey parrot has been compared to have the reasoning ability of a 3-4 year old human child. Now imagine if the smartest dinosaur with more teeth, more claws, much more hungry had that reasoning and communicating ability!!
What Was the Least Intelligent Dinosaur?
It’s easy to compare the intelligence of modern mammals with that of a dinosaur, but dinosaurs weren’t all created equal. IF the smartest dinosaur was the troodon then the contenders for the least smartest dinosaurs are herbivores like Stegosaurus which were not intelligent, as they had large bodies and small brains. For example, the brain of a four-ton Stegosaurus is about the size of a walnut.
Herbivorous dinosaurs typically had lower EQs and intelligence than carnivores. They were characterized by large body sizes and small brains. The brain size of the four-ton Stegosaurus, is only one-tenth the size of a human’s. Even so, it worked well enough to allow it to live thrive and survive for millions of years.
Some of the least intelligent dinosaurs had a brain the size of a walnut. Their EQ was only about 0.05. the main dinosaurs you would not want in your quiz team include sauropods, liek the long neck brontosaurus and brachiosaurus, and ankylosaurus and Stegosaurus. It appears their evolutionary path went for the brawn over brain route.
While intelligence is an important factor in determining how intelligent an organism is, it should not be the sole determining factor. While dinosaurs may not have been the smartest creatures on Earth, their unique traits make them interesting to study.
While their EQs were low, they were still adequate for survival. Hence, dinosaurs are among the most studied giants of Earth.
We have a couple more articles, and more to come, on the intelligence of dinosaurs overall, and of some specific ones, You can jump to these below if you need.
Troodonts had the highest EQ of any dinosaur group. Those with high EQ would be more aware of their surroundings and would have had higher IQ, but this does not necessarily imply high intelligence.
A high EQ combined with good hearing and vision would have resulted in better decision-making abilities. So what did these dinosaurs have in common? They would have been able to use the information from their senses to make intelligent decisions.
Not quite problem solving like some birds today, but remember this is 66 million years ago and at the time we were basically mouse like animals hiding from dinosaurs like troodon!
Hi, I am Roy Ford a General Studies and English Teacher who has taught all over the world. What started as a fossil collection became a great way to teach, motivate and inspire students of all ages and all over the world about dinosaurs and from that and children’s love of dinosaurs came the site dinosaur facts for kids, a resource for all ages.