Why big brains? A comparison of models for both primate and carnivore brain size evolution

Chambers, HR, Heldstab, SA and O'Hara, SJ ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-8908-7522 2021, 'Why big brains? A comparison of models for both primate and carnivore brain size evolution' , PLoS ONE, 16 (12) , e0261185.

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Despite decades of research, much uncertainty remains regarding the selection pressures responsible for brain size variation. Whilst the influential social brain hypothesis once garnered extensive support, more recent studies have failed to find support for a link between brain size and sociality. Instead, it appears there is now substantial evidence suggesting ecology better predicts brain size in both primates and carnivores. Here, different models of brain evolution were tested, and the relative importance of social, ecological, and life-history traits were assessed on both overall encephalisation and specific brain regions. In primates, evidence is found for consistent associations between brain size and ecological factors, particularly diet; however, evidence was also found advocating sociality as a selection pressure driving brain size. In carnivores, evidence suggests ecological variables, most notably home range size, are influencing brain size; whereas, no support is found for the social brain hypothesis, perhaps reflecting the fact sociality appears to be limited to a select few taxa. Life-history associations reveal complex selection mechanisms to be counterbalancing the costs associated with expensive brain tissue through extended developmental periods, reduced fertility, and extended maximum lifespan. Future studies should give careful consideration of the methods chosen for measuring brain size, investigate both whole brain and specific brain regions where possible, and look to integrate multiple variables, thus fully capturing all of the potential factors influencing brain size.

Item Type: Article
Contributors: Kane, A (Editor)
Schools: Schools > School of Environment and Life Sciences > Ecosystems and Environment Research Centre
Journal or Publication Title: PLoS ONE
Publisher: Public Library of Science
ISSN: 1932-6203
Related URLs:
Depositing User: S O'Hara
Date Deposited: 12 Jan 2022 08:23
Last Modified: 15 Feb 2022 16:52
URI: http://usir.salford.ac.uk/id/eprint/62763

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