Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Big-brained Birds Survive Better In Nature

Date:
January 11, 2007
Source:
University of Bath
Summary:
Birds with brains that are large in relation to their body size have a lower mortality rate than those with smaller brains, according to new research published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences.

The researchers found that birds with larger brains relative to their body size survived better in nature than birds with small brains. This may explain why, for example, birds with small relative brain sizes, such as pheasants (like the one shown above), find it harder to avoid a moving car than those with larger brain size, such as magpies.
Credit: Image courtesy of University of Bath

Birds with brains that are large in relation to their body size have a lower mortality rate than those with smaller brains, according to new research published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences.

The research provides the first evidence for what scientists describe as the ‘cognitive buffer’ hypothesis - the idea that having a large brain enables animals to have more flexible behaviours and survive environmental challenges.

This theory was first put forward to answer the puzzle surrounding why animals, including humans, would evolve a larger brain, given the ‘cost’ associated with developing and maintaining a larger brain.

The researchers compared the brain size, body mass and mortality rates in over 200 different species of birds from polar, temperate and tropical regions.

They found that birds with larger brains relative to their body size survived better in nature than birds with small brains. This may explain why, for example, birds with small relative brain sizes, such as pheasants, find it harder to avoid a moving car than those with larger brain size, such as magpies.

“The idea that large brains are associated with reduced mortality has never been scientifically tested,” said Dr Tamas Szekely from the Department of Biology & Biochemistry at the University of Bath.

“Birds are ideally suited for such a test, as they are one of the only groups of animals for which the relationship between large brains and enhanced behavioural response to ecological challenges is best understood.

“We have shown that species with larger brains relative to their body size experience lower mortality than species with smaller brains, supporting the general importance of the cognitive buffer hypothesis in the evolution of large brains.”

The researchers made allowances for factors which may have accounted for variations in mortality rates, such as migratory behaviour, competition for mates and chick behaviour.

“Our findings suggest that large-brained animals might be better prepared to cope with environmental challenges such as climate change and habitat destruction,” said Dr Szekely, who worked with researchers from the Autonomous University of Barcelona (Spain), Pannon University (Hungary) and McGill University (Canada) on the project.

“This is supported by other research which has shown that large-brained birds are more successful in colonising new regions and are better at surviving the changing seasons.”

The research was funded by grants from the Ministerio de Educación y Ciencia (Spain), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Bath. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Bath. "Big-brained Birds Survive Better In Nature." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 January 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/01/070110090918.htm>.
University of Bath. (2007, January 11). Big-brained Birds Survive Better In Nature. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/01/070110090918.htm
University of Bath. "Big-brained Birds Survive Better In Nature." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/01/070110090918.htm (accessed September 22, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Monday, September 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Could Grief Affect The Immune Systems Of Senior Citizens?

Could Grief Affect The Immune Systems Of Senior Citizens?

Newsy (Sep. 19, 2014) — The study found elderly people are much more likely to become susceptible to infection than younger adults going though a similar situation. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Food Addiction Might Be Caused By PTSD

Food Addiction Might Be Caused By PTSD

Newsy (Sep. 18, 2014) — New research shows that women who suffer from PTSD are three times more likely to develop a food addiction. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Corporal Punishment on Decline, Debate Renews

Corporal Punishment on Decline, Debate Renews

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) — Corporal punishment in the United States is on the decline, but there is renewed debate over its use after Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was charged with child abuse. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
FDA Eyes Skin Shocks Used at Mass. School

FDA Eyes Skin Shocks Used at Mass. School

AP (Sep. 15, 2014) — The FDA is considering whether to ban devices used by the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center in Canton, Massachusetts, the only place in the country known to use electrical skin shocks as aversive conditioning for aggressive patients. (Sept. 15) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins