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On being small: brain allometry in ants


Wehner, R; Fukushi, T; Isler, K (2007). On being small: brain allometry in ants. Brain, Behavior and Evolution, 69(3):220-228.

Abstract

Comparative neurobiologists have provided ample evidence that in vertebrates small animals have proportionally larger brains: in a double-logarithmic plot of brain weight versus body weight all data points conform quite closely to a straight line with a slope of less than one. Hence vertebrate brains scale allometrically, rather than isometrically, with body size. Here we extend the phylogenetic scope of such studies and the size range of the brains under investigation to the insects, especially ants. We show that the principle of (negative) allometry applies as well, but that ants have considerably smaller brains than any ant-sized vertebrate would have, and that this result holds even if the relatively higher exoskeleton weights of ants (as compared to endoskeleton weights of mammals) are taken into account. Finally, interspecific comparisons within one genus of ants, Cataglyphis, show that species exhibiting small colony sizes (of a few hundred individuals) have significantly smaller brains than species in which colonies are composed of several thousand individuals.

Comparative neurobiologists have provided ample evidence that in vertebrates small animals have proportionally larger brains: in a double-logarithmic plot of brain weight versus body weight all data points conform quite closely to a straight line with a slope of less than one. Hence vertebrate brains scale allometrically, rather than isometrically, with body size. Here we extend the phylogenetic scope of such studies and the size range of the brains under investigation to the insects, especially ants. We show that the principle of (negative) allometry applies as well, but that ants have considerably smaller brains than any ant-sized vertebrate would have, and that this result holds even if the relatively higher exoskeleton weights of ants (as compared to endoskeleton weights of mammals) are taken into account. Finally, interspecific comparisons within one genus of ants, Cataglyphis, show that species exhibiting small colony sizes (of a few hundred individuals) have significantly smaller brains than species in which colonies are composed of several thousand individuals.

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39 citations in Scopus®
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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Zoology (former)
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
590 Animals (Zoology)
Uncontrolled Keywords:ant, distance estimation, acquisition, memory Allometry, Brain size, Formicidae Cataglyhpis, Insects, Invertebrates
Language:English
Date:2007
Deposited On:11 Feb 2008 12:14
Last Modified:07 Jul 2016 10:29
Publisher:Karger
ISSN:0006-8977
Publisher DOI:10.1159/000097057
Permanent URL: http://doi.org/10.5167/uzh-379

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