Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Dogs have bigger brains than cats because they are more sociable, research finds

Date:
November 28, 2010
Source:
University of Oxford
Summary:
Over millions of years dogs have developed bigger brains than cats because highly social species of mammals need more brain power than solitary animals, according to a new study.

Over millions of years dogs have developed bigger brains than cats because highly social species of mammals need more brain power than solitary animals, according to a study by Oxford University.
Credit: iStockphoto/Mitja Mladkovic

Over millions of years dogs have developed bigger brains than cats because highly social species of mammals need more brain power than solitary animals, according to a study by Oxford University.

For the first time researchers have attempted to chart the evolutionary history of the brain across different groups of mammals over 60 million years. They have discovered that there are huge variations in how the brains of different groups of mammals have evolved over that time. They also suggest that there is a link between the sociality of mammals and the size of their brains relative to body size, according to a study published in the PNAS journal.

The research team analysed available data on the brain size and body size of more than 500 species of living and fossilised mammals. It found that the brains of monkeys grew the most over time, followed by horses, dolphins, camels and dogs. The study shows that groups of mammals with relatively bigger brains tend to live in stable social groups. The brains of more solitary mammals, such as cats, deer and rhino, grew much more slowly during the same period.

Previous research which has looked at why certain groups of living mammals have bigger brains has relied on studies of distantly-related living mammals. It was widely believed that the growth rate of the brain relative to body size followed a general trend across all groups of mammals. However, this study by Dr Susanne Shultz and Professor Robin Dunbar, from Oxford University's Institute of Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology (ICEA), overturns this view. They find that there is wide variation in patterns of brain growth across different groups of mammals and they have discovered that not all mammal groups have larger brains, suggesting that social animals needed to think more.

Lead author Dr Susanne Shultz, a Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin Fellow at ICEA, said: 'This study overturns the long-held belief that brain size has increased across all mammals. Instead, groups of highly social species have undergone much more rapid increases than more solitary species. This suggests that the cooperation and coordination needed for group living can be challenging and over time some mammals have evolved larger brains to be able to cope with the demands of socialising.'

Co-author and Director of ICEA Professor Robin Dunbar said: 'For the first time, it has been possible to provide a genuine evolutionary time depth to the study of brain evolution. It is interesting to see that even animals that have contact with humans, like cats, have much smaller brains than dogs and horses because of their lack of sociality.'

The research team used available data of the measurements of brain size and body size of each group of living mammals and compared them with similar data for the fossilised remains of mammals of the same lineage. They examined the growth rates of the brain size relative to body size to see if there were any changes in the proportions over time. The growth rates of each mammal group were compared with other mammal groups to see what patterns emerged.


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. S. Shultz, R. Dunbar. Encephalization is not a universal macroevolutionary phenomenon in mammals but is associated with sociality. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2010; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1005246107

Cite This Page:

University of Oxford. "Dogs have bigger brains than cats because they are more sociable, research finds." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 November 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101127105348.htm>.
University of Oxford. (2010, November 28). Dogs have bigger brains than cats because they are more sociable, research finds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101127105348.htm
University of Oxford. "Dogs have bigger brains than cats because they are more sociable, research finds." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101127105348.htm (accessed July 25, 2014).

Share This




More Fossils & Ruins News

Friday, July 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Mobile App Gives Tour of Battle of Atlanta Sites

Mobile App Gives Tour of Battle of Atlanta Sites

AP (July 25, 2014) Emory University's Center for Digital Scholarship has launched a self-guided mobile tour app to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the Civil War's Battle of Atlanta. (July 25) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Tyrannosaur Pack-Hunting Theory Aided By New Footprints

Tyrannosaur Pack-Hunting Theory Aided By New Footprints

Newsy (July 24, 2014) A new study claims a set of prehistoric T-Rex footprints supports the theory that the giant predators hunted in packs instead of alone. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Mint Gives JFK Coin a Face-Lift

Mint Gives JFK Coin a Face-Lift

AP (July 24, 2014) The U.S. Mint has re-designed the John F. Kennedy half dollar coin to better match the former president's likeness. (July 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: MD Church Built in 1773 Ravaged by Fire

Raw: MD Church Built in 1773 Ravaged by Fire

AP (July 22, 2014) Authorities say a 241-year-old church on the National Register of Historic Places has been ravaged by fire in Maryland. (July 22) 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