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Biol Lett. 2010 June 23; 6(3): 350–353.
Published online 2009 December 9. doi:  10.1098/rsbl.2009.0787
PMCID: PMC2880037

Does encephalization correlate with life history or metabolic rate in Carnivora?


A recent analysis of brain size evolution reconstructed the plesiomorphic brain–body size allometry for the mammalian order Carnivora, providing an important reference frame for comparative analyses of encephalization (brain volume scaled to body mass). I performed phylogenetically corrected regressions to remove the effects of body mass, calculating correlations between residual values of encephalization with basal metabolic rate (BMR) and six life-history variables (gestation time, neonatal mass, weaning time, weaning mass, litter size, litters per year). No significant correlations were recovered between encephalization and any life-history variable or BMR, arguing against hypotheses relating encephalization to maternal energetic investment. However, after correcting for clade-specific adaptations, I recovered significant correlations for several variables, and further analysis revealed a conserved carnivoran reproductive strategy, linking degree of encephalization to the well-documented mammalian life-history trade-off between neonatal mass and litter size. This strategy of fewer, larger offspring correlating with increased encephalization remains intact even after independent changes in encephalization allometries in the evolutionary history of this clade.

Keywords: brain size, maternal energy hypothesis, Carnivora, Mammalia, likelihood ratios

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