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Brain Behav Evol. 2005;65(4):215-30. Epub 2005 Mar 8.

The evolution of cerebrotypes in birds.

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Department of Psychology, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alta T6G 2E9, Canada.


Multivariate analyses of brain composition in mammals, amphibians and fish have revealed the evolution of 'cerebrotypes' that reflect specific niches and/or clades. Here, we present the first demonstration of similar cerebrotypes in birds. Using principal component analysis and hierarchical clustering methods to analyze a data set of 67 species, we demonstrate that five main cerebrotypes can be recognized. One type is dominated by galliforms and pigeons, among other species, that all share relatively large brainstems, but can be further differentiated by the proportional size of the cerebellum and telencephalic regions. The second cerebrotype contains a range of species that all share relatively large cerebellar and small nidopallial volumes. A third type is composed of two species, the tawny frogmouth (Podargus strigoides) and an owl, both of which share extremely large Wulst volumes. Parrots and passerines, the principal members of the fourth group, possess much larger nidopallial, mesopallial and striatopallidal proportions than the other groups. The fifth cerebrotype contains species such as raptors and waterfowl that are not found at the extremes for any of the brain regions and could therefore be classified as 'generalist' brains. Overall, the clustering of species does not directly reflect the phylogenetic relationships among species, but there is a tendency for species within an order to clump together. There may also be a weak relationship between cerebrotype and developmental differences, but two of the main clusters contained species with both altricial and precocial developmental patterns. As a whole, the groupings do agree with behavioral and ecological similarities among species. Most notably, species that share similarities in locomotor behavior, mode of prey capture or cognitive ability are clustered together. The relationship between cerebrotype and behavior/ecology in birds suggests that future comparative studies of brain-behavior relationships will benefit from adopting a multivariate approach.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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