Format

Send to

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
Ecol Evol. 2013 Aug;3(8):2751-64. doi: 10.1002/ece3.627. Epub 2013 Jun 26.

Evolutionary ecology of intraspecific brain size variation: a review.

Author information

1
Ecological Genetics Research Unit Department of Biosciences, University of Helsinki P.O. Box 65, FI-00014, Helsinki, Finland.
2
Ecological Genetics Research Unit Department of Biosciences, University of Helsinki P.O. Box 65, FI-00014, Helsinki, Finland ; Behavioural Ecology Group Department of Systematic Zoology and Ecology, Eötvös Loránd University Pázmány Péter sétány 1/C, H-1117, Budapest, Hungary.

Abstract

The brain is a trait of central importance for organismal performance and fitness. To date, evolutionary studies of brain size variation have mainly utilized comparative methods applied at the level of species or higher taxa. However, these studies suffer from the difficulty of separating causality from correlation. In the other extreme, studies of brain plasticity have focused mainly on within-population patterns. Between these extremes lie interpopulational studies, focusing on brain size variation among populations of the same species that occupy different habitats or selective regimes. These studies form a rapidly growing field of investigations which can help us to understand brain evolution by providing a test bed for ideas born out of interspecific studies, as well as aid in uncovering the relative importance of genetic and environmental factors shaping variation in brain size and architecture. Aside from providing the first in depth review of published intraspecific studies of brain size variation, we discuss the prospects embedded with interpopulational studies of brain size variation. In particular, the following topics are identified as deserving further attention: (i) studies focusing on disentangling the contributions of genes, environment, and their interactions on brain variation within and among populations, (ii) studies applying quantitative genetic tools to evaluate the relative importance of genetic and environmental factors on brain features at different ontogenetic stages, (iii) apart from utilizing simple gross estimates of brain size, future studies could benefit from use of neuroanatomical, neurohistological, and/or molecular methods in characterizing variation in brain size and architecture. Evolution of brain size and architecture is a widely studied topic. However, the majority of studies are interspecific and comparative. Here we summarize the recently growing body of intraspecific studies based on population comparisons and outline the future potential in this approach.

KEYWORDS:

Brain plasticity; brain size; evolution; natural selection; neural architecture; population differentiation

PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

0 comments
How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for Wiley Icon for PubMed Central
    Loading ...
    Support Center