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Am J Phys Anthropol. 2003 Feb;120(2):171-81.

Dietary constraints on encephalization in primates.

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Department of Anthropology, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona 85287, USA.


Encephalization, and its relationship to potential selective forces, have been a focus of many studies of primate adaptation. It has been argued that gut size may constrain brain mass because these two types of "expensive tissue" (among others) compete in their metabolic requirements (Aiello and Wheeler [1995] Curr. Anthropol. 36:199-221). Following from the inverse correlation of gut size with diet quality, the expensive tissue hypothesis predicts that differences in diet quality are positively correlated with differences in brain mass, once the correlation of each variable with body mass is taken into account. We tested this prediction using both nonphylogenetic and phylogenetic methods. The results of both methods are consistent with predictions made by the expensive tissue hypothesis. We also discuss several examples of independent contrasts that are consistent with the hypothesis (e.g., Colobinae vs. Cercopithecinae), as well as some that are not (e.g., Tarsius vs. anthropoidea). Overall, the results indicate that improved diet quality, by allowing reduction in relative gut mass, is one mechanism involved in increased encephalization.

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