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Earth Science

Small, Big-Brained Animals Dodge Extinction 85

Posted by samzenpus
from the alive-and-dumb dept.
ananyo writes "Large-brained animals may be less likely to go extinct in a changing world, perhaps because they can use their greater intelligence to adapt their behavior to new conditions, according to an analysis presented to a meeting of conservation biologists this week. Plotting brain size against body size creates a tidy curve. But some species have bigger or smaller brains than the curve would predict for their body size. And a bigger brain-to-body-size ratio usually means a smarter animal. The researchers looked at the sizes of such deviations from the curve and their relationships to the fates of two groups of mammalian species — 'palaeo' and 'modern'. Analysis of each group produced similar results: species that weighed less than 10 kilograms and had big brains for their body size were less likely to have gone extinct or be placed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature red list for endangered species. For species larger than about 10 kilograms, the advantage of having a large brain seems to be swamped by the disadvantage of being big — such as attracting the unwelcome attention of humans."
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Small, Big-Brained Animals Dodge Extinction

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  • Small animals survived last five mass extinctions because they have relatively large penis, not the brains. Human dominates over other species simply because we have biggest penis, relatively to our size. Bigger penis is always been an advantage over bigger brain, in any given time of history, or party.

    So you should be proud of your species dominance for having a bigger penis, no matter how small in absolute term it is; chances that it's already bigger than an average chimpanzee, in relative term.
  • That will explain the Japanese resilience.

  • Well, that explains Ewoks, I guess.

    Hmmm.... George Lucas was actually right about something. Has anyone measured his skull capacity recently?

  • > "Large-brained animals may be less likely to go extinct in a changing world, perhaps because
    > they can use their greater intelligence to adapt their behavior to new conditions, according to an
    > analysis presented to a meeting of conservation biologists this week.

    Umm, they're only figuring this out now?

    Each step in evolution has involved milestones that allow a magnitude or more faster scouring of the evolution fitness gradient descent space.

    Slowest
    1. Random mutation due to stray neutron or copy e

    • by Daetrin (576516)
      Alternatively one could formulate a hypothesis, make a prediction based on your hypothesis, figure out a way to test that prediction (either by direct experiment or comparison to previous measurements), perform the test, and verify the results. Welcome to science! You may like it here!

      ...oh sorry, nevermind, from the above it seems that you're of the "make a wild-ass guess and then go home and call it a day" philosophy. I suppose it's always easy to make fun of people doing the actual work than to do it y
  • Then, those brains destroy the whole world!
  • ... from a major extinction event, such as a large asteroid collision?

    Isn't that what wiped out the dinosaurs?

    • by Daetrin (576516)
      Hmmm, so what happened in that case? Let's see, the large small-brained dinosaurs all died, while some of the small large-brained mammals survived, reproduced, and evolved. Exactly matching up with the research in this study. So what's the question exactly? I mean i could come up with a bunch of theories as to the exact ways in which relatively big brains helped the mammals survive, but that seems slightly outside the scope of the discussion.
      • If that's all they used as a comparison, I'd say warm blooded vs cold blooded just miiiiight have had a little, tiny, 100% bit to do with it.
        For intra-mammal comparison, once their brains get large enough, they destroy the entire planet :-P The theory kinda falls apart then.
        • by Daetrin (576516)
          Actually, there's a "popular" opinion among paleontologists now that a lot of the dinosaurs were warm blooded, or something like it. [wikipedia.org] So that's not a sufficient explanation. Size was probably a much bigger factor, which is part of what this whole study was about. When times are good, being large helps you out-compete others. When times are hard, like after an asteroid strike or while a particular large-brain mammal is busy destroying the planet, being small makes it easier to hide and lets you get by on less
      • Let's see, the large small-brained dinosaurs all died, while some of the small large-brained mammals survived, reproduced, and evolved.

        Last I checked, birds had been moved under dinosauria, which means that the smaller, large-brained dinosaurs survived the C-T event quite nicely.

        And if you bother to check, you'll notice that birds dominated the world for ten million years or so after the C-T event, not mammals...

        • by Daetrin (576516)
          I said "the large small-brained dinosaurs all died". You said the small large-brained dinosaurs (aka birds) survived. What exactly is the conflict? I admit i didn't specifically address the case of birds, but there were a lot of things that survived besides just mammals that i didn't address either. I also said the mammals survived, reproduced and evolved, which they clearly did because here we are right now. I didn't claim they dominated during any specific period.

          If you want to champion the case of bird
    • As others have pointed out, bigger brains might allow a species to spread over a wider, more diverse area, increasing survival chances. Keep in mind, the asteroid might have killed the dinosaurs, but it took hundreds of thousands of years for them to all die out, which is obviously plenty of time for intelligent problem solving to be a useful survival skill. Global scale events aren't generally things that happen quickly, a geological eye blink yes but that's still an awfully long time.

      • by na1led (1030470)
        Eventually, brains grow so big they blow themselves up. Then the process starts over again.
  • I, for one, welcome our hydroenchephalitic dwarf overlords.
  • Neanderthals (Score:4, Interesting)

    by tobiah (308208) on Thursday July 19, 2012 @12:45PM (#40700503)

    Neanderthals and a number of other extinct early hominids had brain sizes of 1600cc to 2200cc. Modern homo homo sapiens have a brain size of around 1200cc to 1500cc. Einstein's brain was around 1250cc. Sharks are the most enduring vertebrate on Earth, and have one of the lowest brain/body mass ratios. There's plenty of evidence to refute the premise.
    Marris in her Nature article is implying that large brain/body ratios increase species survival likelyhood, based on comparing a "primitive" class of mammals to a "modern" one. But it could just as well be their digestive system was more adaptable, superior immune systems, etc. She started with a theoretical classification of living and extinct mammals (paleo and modern) and tried to support her theory that one has a survival advantage. This is trying to make the empirical data fit the theoretical model, and is crummy science. If one were actually interested in extinction, they should study different species and why they went extinct or not, and then build a theory based on those empirical results.

  • Great name for a new SUV.
  • This is 'science'? You got a big brain, you're smarter than a thing with a small brain. If you're smart, you dont get extinct. Hardly rocket science. What's the next 'scientific breakthrough'? "Hominids carrying AK47's are likely to prevail in a skirmish with unarmed donkeys"?

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