Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Slowly-developing primates definitely not dim-witted

18.04.2008
Some primates have evolved big brains because their extra brainpower helps them live and reproduce longer, an advantage that outweighs the demands of extra years of growth and development they spend reaching adulthood, anthropologists from Duke University and the University of Zurich have concluded in a new study.

The four investigators compared key benchmarks in the development of 28 different primate species, ranging from humans living free of modern trappings in South American jungles to lemurs living in wild settings in Madagascar.

"This research focused specifically on the balance between the costs and benefits of growing a large brain," said Nancy Barrickman, a graduate student in Duke's Department of Biological Anthropology and Anatomy, who is first and corresponding author of a report now posted online for a future print edition of the Journal of Human Evolution.

"Growth rates are much slower in large-brained organisms, and that causes a delay in reproduction," Barrickman said. "If individuals wait too long to reach maturity then they run the risk of dying before they've had the chance to reproduce. So there must be some benefit to large brain size at the same time these costs are incurred.

... more about:
»Barrickman »ExtrA »Life »Skill »primate

"Is larger brain size causing life histories to become extended and slowed down? We think so," Barrickman added. "That obviously fits in very well with humans, who take forever to grow up and live a really long time. So we have the opportunity to have lots of offspring over that long period."

Barrickman drew these conclusions working with Carel van Schaik, a Duke adjunct professor on her doctoral studies committee who directs the University of Zurich's Anthropological Institute and Museum. Other coauthors include Duke graduate student Meredith Bastian, and Karin Isler, a collaborator of van Schaik's in Switzerland.

"Our main finding is that brain size is a far better predictor of the duration of immaturity than body size, at least among primates," said van Schaik. "This study is also useful because it allows us to understand why humans develop so slowly and live so long -- we have no other choice!"

Other studies have linked primate brain size to life span and other factors, but those results have been contradictory, according to the new report. Previous studies were "polluted" by mixing data on captive and wild animals, van Schaik said. "Because development and survival are highly responsive to conditions, this variability made it impossible to do clean comparisons."

Their study was supported by the scientific research society Sigma Xi, the American Museum of Natural History and the Ruggles Gates Fund for Biological Anthropology in the United Kingdom.

Barrickman and her colleagues focused on primates living in the wild because "animals tend to grow up faster in captivity," she said. In the case of humans, they studied the Ache, a tropical forest culture in eastern Paraguay.

"Their food is exclusively wild food they forage from the forest," she said of the Ache. "And they don't have other things like modern birth control methods that you'd find in an industrial population like ours. My argument is that we're basically captive primates by comparison."

After analyzing available data on life history benchmarks such as length of pregnancy, years from birth to maturity, pre- and post-natal brain development and lifespan, the researchers found that humans and other big-brained species such as chimpanzees share certain survival traits.

It takes longer to grow a bigger brain, thus leaving immature offspring in need of extra care for longer periods. But larger brains also provide adult caretakers with "more complex foraging techniques, predator avoidance and social skills," the researchers wrote.

Greater skill allows adults to live longer, which in turn gives them longer reproductive lives. Humans have added to this adaptive advantage by using their cognitive and social skills to work together in providing shelter and nourishment for the young, they said.

Additionally, human females can live well beyond their reproductive years. And the contributions of non-reproducing grandmothers may further enhance their own children's reproductive effort and decrease infant mortality, Barrickman said. That's because grandmas offer extra assistance in child rearing and food gathering.

Studies of some primitive societies, such as the Hadza in East Africa, show that "grandchildren are more likely to survive if they have a grandmother present," she said.

Some studies suggest that starting life with a brain that is still developing itself confers some survival advantages to offspring, according to Barrickman. Extended interactions with mothers and their surroundings can help "wire their brain" as it grows, she said.

"They wind up with very plastic brains that can adjust to whatever environmental stimulations come at them," she said.

Monte Basgall | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.duke.edu

Further reports about: Barrickman ExtrA Life Skill primate

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Cryo-electron microscopy achieves unprecedented resolution using new computational methods
24.03.2017 | DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

nachricht How cheetahs stay fit and healthy
24.03.2017 | Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V.

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

Im Focus: Researchers Imitate Molecular Crowding in Cells

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Argon is not the 'dope' for metallic hydrogen

24.03.2017 | Materials Sciences

Astronomers find unexpected, dust-obscured star formation in distant galaxy

24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Gravitational wave kicks monster black hole out of galactic core

24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>