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Hibernation constrains brain size evolution in mammals


Heldstab, Sandra A; Isler, Karin; van Schaik, Carel P (2018). Hibernation constrains brain size evolution in mammals. Journal of Evolutionary Biology, 31(10):1582-1588.

Abstract

The expensive brain hypothesis predicts that the lowest stable level of steady energy input acts as a strong constraint on a species’ brain size, and thus, that periodic troughs in net energy intake should select for reduced brain size relative to body mass. Here, we test this prediction for the extreme case of hibernation. Hibernators drastically reduce food intake for up to several months and are therefore expected to have smaller relative brain sizes than nonhibernating species. Using a comparative phylogenetic approach on brain size estimates of 1104 mammalian species, and controlling for possible confounding variables, we indeed found that the presence of hibernation in mammals is correlated with decreased relative brain size. This result adds to recent comparative work across mammals and amphibians supporting the idea that environmental seasonality (where in extremis hibernation is necessary for survival) imposes an energetic challenge and thus acts as an evolutionary constraint on relative brain size.

Abstract

The expensive brain hypothesis predicts that the lowest stable level of steady energy input acts as a strong constraint on a species’ brain size, and thus, that periodic troughs in net energy intake should select for reduced brain size relative to body mass. Here, we test this prediction for the extreme case of hibernation. Hibernators drastically reduce food intake for up to several months and are therefore expected to have smaller relative brain sizes than nonhibernating species. Using a comparative phylogenetic approach on brain size estimates of 1104 mammalian species, and controlling for possible confounding variables, we indeed found that the presence of hibernation in mammals is correlated with decreased relative brain size. This result adds to recent comparative work across mammals and amphibians supporting the idea that environmental seasonality (where in extremis hibernation is necessary for survival) imposes an energetic challenge and thus acts as an evolutionary constraint on relative brain size.

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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
Uncontrolled Keywords:Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
Language:English
Date:1 October 2018
Deposited On:11 Jan 2019 14:21
Last Modified:17 Sep 2019 19:25
Publisher:Wiley-Blackwell Publishing, Inc.
ISSN:1010-061X
OA Status:Green
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1111/jeb.13353

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