A textbook example is Darwin finches from Galapagos, whose ancestor colonized a competitors-free archipelago and rapidly radiated in 13 species, each one adapted to use the food resources in a different way.
This and other examples have led some to think that the progenitors of the major evolutionary radiations are those that happened to be in the right place and at the right time to take advantage of ecological opportunities. However, is it possible that biological diversification not only depends on the properties of the environment an ancestral species finds itself in, but also on the features of the species itself?
Now a study supports this possibility, suggesting that possessing a large brain might have facilitated the evolutionary diversification of some avian lineages.
Over 20 years ago, Jeff Wyles, Allan Wilson, and Joseph Kunkel proposed that big brains might favor adaptive evolutionary diversification in animals by facilitating the behavioral changes needed to use new resources or environments, a theory known as the behavioral drive hypothesis. When these authors formulated their hypothesis, evidence that the size of the brain limits the cognitive capacity of animals were scanty.
Since then, however, a substantial body of evidence has confirmed that animals with larger brains, relative to their body size, have more developed skills for changing their behavior through learning and innovation, facilitating the invasion of novel environments and the use of novel resources. Despite the progress, the role of the brain in the adaptive diversification of animals has remained controversial, mostly due to the difficulties to demonstrate that big-brained animals evolve faster. Now, ecologist Daniel Sol of CREAF-Autonomous University of Barcelona and evolutionary biologist Trevor Price of the University of Chicago, provide evidence for such a role in birds in an article in the August issue of The American Naturalist.
Analyzing body size measures of 7,209 species (representing 75% of all avian species), they found that avian families that have experienced the greatest diversification in body size tend to be those with brains larger than expected for their body size. These include the Picidae (woodpeckers), Bucerotidae (hornbills), Psittacidae (parrots), Strigidae (owls), Menuridae (lyrebirds) and Corvidae (crows). Brain size can promote morphological diversification because it facilitates range expansions and speciation, yet the analyses indicate that the brain-diversification association is statistically independent of geographic range and species richness.
"The most likely alternative," Daniel Sol states, "is that big brains enhance the rate of evolutionary diversification by facilitating changes in behavior, which would place new selection pressures on populations and favor adaptive divergence." Thus, in species with high cognitive styles, behavior might be, along with environmental factors, a major driving force for evolution.
Patricia Morse | EurekAlert!
Turning carbon dioxide into liquid fuel
06.08.2020 | DOE/Argonne National Laboratory
Tellurium makes the difference
06.08.2020 | Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena
Scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT have come up with a striking new addition to contact stamping technologies in the ERDF research project ScanCut. In collaboration with industry partners from North Rhine-Westphalia, the Aachen-based team of researchers developed a hybrid manufacturing process for the laser cutting of thin-walled metal strips. This new process makes it possible to fabricate even the tiniest details of contact parts in an eco-friendly, high-precision and efficient manner.
Plug connectors are tiny and, at first glance, unremarkable – yet modern vehicles would be unable to function without them. Several thousand plug connectors...
An international research team has found a new approach that may be able to reduce bone loss in osteoporosis and maintain bone health.
Osteoporosis is the most common age-related bone disease which affects hundreds of millions of individuals worldwide. It is estimated that one in three women...
Traditional single-cell sequencing methods help to reveal insights about cellular differences and functions - but they do this with static snapshots only...
“Core-shell” clusters pave the way for new efficient nanomaterials that make catalysts, magnetic and laser sensors or measuring devices for detecting electromagnetic radiation more efficient.
Whether in innovative high-tech materials, more powerful computer chips, pharmaceuticals or in the field of renewable energies, nanoparticles – smallest...
An international research team with Prof. Cornelia Denz from the Institute of Applied Physics at the University of Münster develop for the first time light fields using caustics that do not change during propagation. With the new method, the physicists cleverly exploit light structures that can be seen in rainbows or when light is transmitted through drinking glasses.
Modern applications as high resolution microsopy or micro- or nanoscale material processing require customized laser beams that do not change during...
23.07.2020 | Event News
21.07.2020 | Event News
07.07.2020 | Event News
06.08.2020 | Earth Sciences
06.08.2020 | Power and Electrical Engineering
06.08.2020 | Life Sciences