AUGUST 23, 2019
Big brains can help an animal mount quick, flexible behavioral responses to frequent or unexpected environmental changes. But some birds just don't need 'em.
A global study comparing 2,062 birds finds that, in highly variable environments, birds tend to have either larger or smaller brains relative to their body size. Birds with smaller brains tend to use ecological strategies that are not available to big-brained counterparts. Instead of relying on grey matter to survive, these birds tend to have large bodies, eat readily available food and make lots of babies.
The new research from biologists at Washington University in St. Louis appears Aug. 23 in the journal Nature Communications.
"The fact is that there are a great many species that do quite well with small brains," said Trevor Fristoe, formerly a postdoctoral researcher at Washington University, now at the University of Konstanz in Germany.