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Effects of seasonality on brain size evolution: evidence from strepsirrhine primates


van Woerden, J T; van Schaik, C P; Isler, K (2010). Effects of seasonality on brain size evolution: evidence from strepsirrhine primates. American Naturalist, 176(6):758-767.

Abstract

Seasonal changes in energy supply impose energetic constraints that affect many physiological and behavioral characteristics of organisms. As brains are costly, we predict brain size to be relatively small in species that experience a higher degree of seasonality (expensive brain framework). Alternatively, it has been argued that larger brains give animals the behavioral flexibility to buffer the effects of habitat seasonality (cognitive buffer hypothesis). Here, we test these two hypotheses in a comparative study on strepsirrhine primates (African lorises and Malagasy lemurs) that experience widely varying degrees of seasonality. We found that experienced seasonality is negatively correlated with relative brain size in both groups, controlling for the effect of phylogenetic relationships and possible confounding variables such as the extent of folivory. However, relatively larger-brained lemur species tend to experience less variation in their dietary intake than indicated by the seasonality of their habitat. In conclusion, we found clear support for the hypothesis that seasonality restricts brain size in strepsirrhines as predicted by the expensive brain framework and weak support for the cognitive buffer hypothesis in lemurs.

Seasonal changes in energy supply impose energetic constraints that affect many physiological and behavioral characteristics of organisms. As brains are costly, we predict brain size to be relatively small in species that experience a higher degree of seasonality (expensive brain framework). Alternatively, it has been argued that larger brains give animals the behavioral flexibility to buffer the effects of habitat seasonality (cognitive buffer hypothesis). Here, we test these two hypotheses in a comparative study on strepsirrhine primates (African lorises and Malagasy lemurs) that experience widely varying degrees of seasonality. We found that experienced seasonality is negatively correlated with relative brain size in both groups, controlling for the effect of phylogenetic relationships and possible confounding variables such as the extent of folivory. However, relatively larger-brained lemur species tend to experience less variation in their dietary intake than indicated by the seasonality of their habitat. In conclusion, we found clear support for the hypothesis that seasonality restricts brain size in strepsirrhines as predicted by the expensive brain framework and weak support for the cognitive buffer hypothesis in lemurs.

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25 citations in Scopus®
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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Department of Anthropology
Dewey Decimal Classification:300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology
Language:English
Date:2010
Deposited On:24 Jan 2011 10:07
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 14:25
Publisher:University of Chicago Press
ISSN:0003-0147
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:10.1086/657045
PubMed ID:21043783
Permanent URL: http://doi.org/10.5167/uzh-38869

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