Body mass variation is negatively associated with brain size: Evidence for the fat-brain trade-off in anurans

Yan Huang, Chun Lan Mai, Wen Bo Liao*, Alexander Kotrschal

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Species can evolve diverse strategies to survive periods of uncertainty. Animals may either invest in energy storage, allowing them to decrease foraging costs, such as locomotion or risk of predation, or they may invest in better cognitive abilities helping them to flexibly adapt their behavior to meet novel challenges. Here, we test this idea of a fat-brain trade-off in 38 species of Chinese anurans by relating the coefficient of variation of body mass (CVbodymass; as an indicator of how much animals invest into storage over the season) to brain anatomical features. After correcting for shared ancestry and body mass, we found a negative relationship between relative brain size and CVbodymass. This indicates that anurans seem to trade-off physiological and cognitive buffering during energy shortages. As similar patterns have been reported in arboreal mammals and primates our findings suggest that the fat-brain trade-off, where animals either invest into physiological or cognitive strategies to survive harsh conditions, may be a general pattern across vertebrates.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1551-1557
JournalEvolution
Volume74
Issue number7
Early online date4 May 2020
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2020

Keywords

  • body mass
  • Brain size
  • fat storage
  • trade-off

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