Big Brains

Plastic brain model

Big brain…tiny list of Facebook friends?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

We, humans, are VERY smart mammals – if we do say so ourselves! Some say it’s because we have such big brains. But at what cost to society?

Manuela González-Suárez at the University of Reading, UK, and her international team wondered. Is there a connection between community size and brain size?

They reviewed almost seven hundred species of non-flying mammals and their noggin sizes. They divided them into five different groups, depending on their eating and living habits: rodents, apes, whales, pouch-bearing, and sharp-jawed – like cats and dogs. They measured and compared brain size among all the different groups.

For ALL categories, the heavier the brain, the smaller their community! Why?

The researchers believe it’s because heavier brains use more energy. And more energy requires more food! Keeping the community small ensures that there’s always enough to go around.

Only have a few close friends? Don’t worry–maybe you just have a big brain!

Reference: González‐Suárez, M., Gonzalez‐Voyer, A., Hardenberg, A., & Santini, L. (2020). The role of brain size on mammalian population densities. Journal of Animal Ecology.