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Effects of Seasonality on Brain Size Evolution: Evidence from Strepsirrhine Primates


van Woerden, Janneke T; van Schaik, Carel P; Isler, Karin (2010). Effects of Seasonality on Brain Size Evolution: Evidence from Strepsirrhine Primates. The 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.

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.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Department of Evolutionary Anthropology
Dewey Decimal Classification:300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology
Scopus Subject Areas:Life Sciences > Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
Language:English
Date:2010
Deposited On:24 Jan 2011 10:07
Last Modified:06 Feb 2024 14:54
Publisher:University of Chicago Press
ISSN:0003-0147
OA Status:Green
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1086/657045
PubMed ID:21043783
  • Content: Published Version
  • Language: English
  • Description: © 2010 by The University of Chicago.
  • Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0)