Brains, lifestyles and cognition: Are there general trends?

Lefebvre L., Sol D. (2008) Brains, lifestyles and cognition: Are there general trends?. Brain, Behavior and Evolution. 72: 135-144.
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Doi: 10.1159/000151473

Resum:

Comparative and experimental approaches to cognition in different animal taxa suggest some degree of convergent evolution. Similar cognitive trends associated with similar lifestyles (sociality, generalism, new habitats) are seen in taxa that are phylogenetically distant and possess remarkably different brains. Many cognitive measures show positive intercorrelations at the inter-individual and inter-taxon level, suggesting some degree of general intelligence. Ecological principles like the unpredictability of resources in space and time may drive different types of cognition (e.g., social and non-social) in the same direction. Taxa that rank high on comparative counts of cognition in the field are usually the ones that succeed well in experimental tests, with the exception of avian imitation. From apes to birds, fish and beetles, a few common principles appear to have influenced the evolution of brains and cognition in widely divergent taxa. Copyright © 2008 S. Karger AG.

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Brain size predicts the success of mammal species introduced into novel environments

Sol D., Bacher S., Reader S.M., Lefebvre L. (2008) Brain size predicts the success of mammal species introduced into novel environments. American Naturalist. 172: 0-0.
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Doi: 10.1086/588304

Resum:

Large brains, relative to body size, can confer advantages to individuals in the form of behavioral flexibility. Such enhanced behavioral flexibility is predicted to carry fitness benefits to individuals facing novel or altered environmental conditions, a theory known as the brain size-environmental change hypothesis. Here, we provide the first empirical link between brain size and survival in novel environments in mammals, the largest-brained animals on Earth. Using a global database documenting the outcome of more than 400 introduction events, we show that mammal species with larger brains, relative to their body mass, tend to be more successful than species with smaller brains at establishing themselves when introduced to novel environments, when both taxonomic and regional autocorrelations are accounted for. This finding is robust to the effect of other factors known to influence establishment success, including introduction effort and habitat generalism. Our results replicate similar findings in birds, increasing the generality of evidence for the idea that enlarged brains can provide a survival advantage in novel environments. © 2008 by The University of Chicago.

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