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Brain Behav Evol. 2007;70(1):57-70. Epub 2007 Apr 4.

The limbic system in Mammalian brain evolution.

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Department of Physiological Sciences and McKnight Brain Institute, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32610, USA.


Previous accounts of mammalian brain allometry have relied largely on data from primates, insectivores and bats. Here we examine scaling of brain structures in carnivores, ungulates, xenarthrans and sirenians, taxa chosen to maximize potential olfactory and limbic system variability. The data were compared to known scaling of the same structures in bats, insectivores and primates. Fundamental patterns in brain scaling were similar across all taxa. Marine mammals with reduced olfactory bulbs also had reduced limbic systems overall, particularly in those structures receiving direct olfactory input. In all species, a limbic factor with olfactory and non-olfactory components was observed. Primates, insectivores, ungulate and marine mammals collectively demonstrate an inverse relationship between isocortex and limbic volumes, but terrestrial carnivores have high relative volumes of both, and bats low relative volumes of both. We discuss developmental processes that may provide the mechanistic bases for understanding these findings.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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