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J Hum Evol. 2006 Nov;51(5):480-9. Epub 2006 Jul 5.

Evolution of brain size and juvenile periods in primates.

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Department of Anthropology, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM 87131, USA.


This paper assesses selective pressures that shaped primate life histories, with particular attention to the evolution of longer juvenile periods and increased brain sizes. We evaluate the effects of social complexity (as indexed by group size) and foraging complexity (as indexed by percent fruit and seeds in the diet) on the length of the juvenile period, brain size, and brain ratios (neocortex and executive brain ratios) while controlling for positive covariance among body size, life span, and home range. Results support strong components of diet, life span, and population density acting on juvenile periods and of home range acting on relative brain sizes. Social-complexity arguments for the evolution of primate intelligence are compelling given strong positive correlations between brain ratios and group size while controlling for potential confounding variables. We conclude that both social and ecological components acting at variable intensities in different primate clades are important for understanding variation in primate life histories.

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