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Brain Behav Evol. 1999 Dec;54(6):314-22.

Relative medial and dorsal cortex volume in relation to foraging ecology in congeneric lizards.

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Department of Psychology, University of Texas, Austin, 78712, USA.


The need to locate distributed resources such as mates, food, and nests is correlated with an enlarged hippocampus in many mammalian and avian species. This correlation is believed to be a consequence of selection for spatial ability. Little is known about how such ecological needs affect non-mammalian, non-avian species. In lizards, the putative hippocampal homologues are the dorsal cortex (DC) and medial cortex (MC). We examined the relationship between foraging ecology and the size of the DC and MC in congeneric male lizards. We predicted based on the mammalian and avian literature that Acanthodactylus boskianus, an active forager that captures clumped, immobile prey would have a larger MC and DC than A. scutellatus, a sit-and-wait predator, that captures mobile prey. Our previous behavioral studies showed that A. boskianus did not differ from A. scutellatus on a spatial task but that A. boskianus was significantly better at the reversal of a visual discrimination, another task that is hippocampally dependent in mammals. In the current study, we found that, relative to telencephalon volume, the MC and DC were larger in the active forager whereas a control region, the lateral, olfactory, cortex, was similar in size between species. The current anatomical results suggest that MC and DC size is related to active foraging in lizards and, along with our previous behavioral studies, show that it is possible for this relationship to occur in the absence of evidence for species differences in spatial memory.

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