Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Are Tigers 'Brainier' Than Lions?

Date:
September 13, 2009
Source:
University of Oxford
Summary:
A wide-ranging study of big cat skulls has shown that tigers have bigger brains, relative to their body size, than lions, leopards or jaguars.

Comparison between greatest length of skull and cranial volume amongst leopard (left on the lower line), jaguar (centre on the lower line), lion (right on the lower line), and tiger (on the upper line).
Credit: Image courtesy of University of Oxford

A wide-ranging study of big cat skulls, led by Oxford University scientists, has shown that tigers have bigger brains, relative to their body size, than lions, leopards or jaguars.

The team investigated the relationship between the skull size – the longest length between the front and back parts of the skull – of a large sample of tigers, lions, leopards and jaguars and the volume inside the cats’ respective craniums. The researchers report their findings in this month’s Biological Journal of the Linnean Society.

'What we had not expected is that the tiger has clearly much bigger relative brain size than do the other three species, which all have similar relative brain sizes,’ said Dr Nobby Yamaguchi of Oxford University’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU), an author of the report with WildCRU Director Professor David Macdonald.

‘When we compare the two biggest species, on average the lion has a bigger skull than the tiger based on the greatest length of the skull. However, the tiger has bigger cranial volume than the lion. It is truly amazing that tiny female Balinese tiger skulls have cranial volumes as large as those of huge male southern African lion skulls.’

It has sometimes been assumed that social species, such as lions, should have larger brains than solitary species, such as tigers, because of the need to handle a more complex social life within groups or prides. However, despite a few studies suggesting a relationship between big brains and sociality in mammals, evidence for the link is far from clear.

Dr Nobby Yamaguchi said: ‘Our results strongly suggest that there is no detectable positive relationship between relative brain size and sociality amongst these four big cat species, which shared a common ancestor around 3.7 million years ago.’

The team also looked at the popular idea that tigers are ‘bigger’ than lions (which could mean that the tiger’s relatively bigger brain size simply reflects its bigger body). However, careful re-evaluation of original field data and relatively well-documented hunting records does not support this idea.

So the team concluded that the tigers have a relatively bigger brain (around 16 per cent larger) than lions, given their very similar average body sizes.

Professor Macdonald said: ‘Two general lessons emerge from our findings: first, how much remains to be discovered about even these most familiar of big cats, and second how important museum collections can be as a source of unexpected insights.’

The next step for the researchers is to try to answer whether such a difference can be explained by intrageneric variation or merely by chance. If not by chance, then it raises the question why the tiger evolved a relatively bigger brain (or why other species evolved smaller brains) after the tiger’s ancestor split from the common ancestor to the other three species.

The answers to both these questions may lie in analysing comparative brain anatomy amongst these species (for instance, which parts of the tiger’s brain are bigger than the lion’s) and similar data from extinct relatives of these big cats as well as smaller living relatives such as the snow leopard and clouded leopard.


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. Yamaguchi et al. 'Brain size of the lion (Panthera leo) and the tiger (P. tigris): implications for intrageneric phylogeny, intraspecific differences and the effects of captivity. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2009; 98 (1): 85 DOI: 10.1111/j.1095-8312.2009.01249.x

Cite This Page:

University of Oxford. "Are Tigers 'Brainier' Than Lions?." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 September 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090911145030.htm>.
University of Oxford. (2009, September 13). Are Tigers 'Brainier' Than Lions?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090911145030.htm
University of Oxford. "Are Tigers 'Brainier' Than Lions?." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090911145030.htm (accessed July 31, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Visitors Feel Part of the Pack at Wolf Preserve

Visitors Feel Part of the Pack at Wolf Preserve

AP (July 31, 2014) Seacrest Wolf Preserve on the northern Florida panhandle allows more than 10,000 visitors each year to get up close and personal with Arctic and British Columbian Wolves. (July 31) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Florida Panther Rebound Upsets Ranchers

Florida Panther Rebound Upsets Ranchers

AP (July 31, 2014) With Florida's panther population rebounding, some ranchers complain the protected predators are once again killing their calves. (July 31) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Dangerous Bacteria Kills One in Florida

Dangerous Bacteria Kills One in Florida

AP (July 31, 2014) Sarasota County, Florida health officials have issued a warning against eating raw oysters and exposing open wounds to coastal and inland waters after a dangerous bacteria killed one person and made another sick. (July 31) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle

Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle

AP (July 30, 2014) Thousands of people are trekking to a Bavarian farmer's field to check out a mysterious set of crop circles. (July 30) 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