Thursday, January 11, 2007

Birds with bigger brains like crows and parrots survive better than their dimmer feathered friends

Patricia Reaney:

Scientists have suspected that birds with large brains in relation to their body size lived longer because they were able to adapt their behavior and cope with environmental challenges.

Now they have provided evidence that it does.

“We have tested the hypothesis that the brain can buffer animals against the environment and help them to survive when they face environmental challenges,” said Daniel Sol of the Center for Ecological Research and Forestry Applications in Barcelona, Spain.

After comparing mortality rates, brain size and body mass of 236 species of birds from different regions of the world, Sol and scientists in Britain, Hungary and Canada discovered that the bigger the brain the better.

“We have found that species that have the larger brains are the ones that survive better, suggesting that the brain has helped them to survive. That’s the main finding of this work,” Sol told Reuters.

Crows, ravens and parrots have the largest brains, while pheasants have a relatively small brain.

Earlier studies have shown there is a relationship between the size of the brain and an animal’s capacity to create new behaviors and adapt more easily.

Studies of primates have produced similar findings.

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