Variation in brain size and ecology in Orangutans

John Hawks expands on a paper that I introduced several months ago. The paper has been online for a while but has appeared in the January 2007 edition of the Journal of Human Evolution, it is titled, “Variation in brain size and ecology in Pongo.” Hawks briefly criticizes a flaw in the experimental setup of the paper, specifically about comparing the brain sizes between populations of orangs,

“Well, not exactly, since a relatively faster development might still be slowed in the resource-stress environment. The real test would be to compare the two subspecies in captivity where they presumably have similar (and sufficient) diets.”

He continues on a discussion about his thoughts about how,

“high diet quality under resource stress requires a larger (i.e. smarter) brain, while a sacrifice of diet quality with dependence on low-energy fallback foods selects for a smaller (i.e., lower energy cost) brain.”

And ties it to the Homo floresiensis debacle. It’s a quick and interesting read about how environment influences bodies, population, and ultimately evolution of primates.

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