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How our ancestors broke through the gray ceiling


Isler, K; van Schaik, C P (2012). How our ancestors broke through the gray ceiling. Current Anthropology, 53(S6):S453-S465.

Abstract

The “expensive brain” framework proposes that the costs of an increase in brain size can be met by any combination of increasing the total energy turnover or reducing energy allocation to other expensive functions, such as maintenance (digestion), locomotion, or production (growth and reproduction). Here, we explore its implications for human evolution. Using both comparative data on extant mammals and life-table simulations from wild extant apes, we show that primates with a hominoid lifestyle face a gray ceiling that limits their brain size, with larger values leading to demographic nonviability. We argue that cooperative care provides the most plausible exaptation for the increase in brain size in the Homo lineage.

Abstract

The “expensive brain” framework proposes that the costs of an increase in brain size can be met by any combination of increasing the total energy turnover or reducing energy allocation to other expensive functions, such as maintenance (digestion), locomotion, or production (growth and reproduction). Here, we explore its implications for human evolution. Using both comparative data on extant mammals and life-table simulations from wild extant apes, we show that primates with a hominoid lifestyle face a gray ceiling that limits their brain size, with larger values leading to demographic nonviability. We argue that cooperative care provides the most plausible exaptation for the increase in brain size in the Homo lineage.

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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:2012
Deposited On:22 Jan 2013 12:12
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 16:18
Publisher:University of Chicago Press
ISSN:0011-3204
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1086/667623

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