Predation impacts brain allometry in female guppies (Poecilia reticulata)

Regina Vega-Trejo*, Catarina Vila-Pouca, David J. Mitchell, Alexander Kotrschal

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Cognitive and sensory abilities are vital in affecting survival under predation risk, leading to selection on brain anatomy. However, how exactly predation and brain evolution are linked has not yet been resolved, as current empirical evidence is inconclusive. This may be due to predation pressure having different effects across life stages and/or due to confounding factors in ecological comparisons of predation pressure. Here, we used adult guppies (Poecilia reticulata) to experimentally test how direct predation during adulthood would impact the relative brain size and brain anatomy of surviving individuals to examine if predators selectively remove individuals with specific brain morphology. To this end, we compared fish surviving predation to control fish, which were exposed to visual and olfactory predator cues but could not be predated on. We found that predation impacted the relative size of female brains. However, this effect was dependent on body size, as larger female survivors showed relatively larger brains, while smaller survivors showed relatively smaller brains when compared to control females. We found no differences in male relative brain size between survivors and controls, nor for any specific relative brain region sizes for either sex. Our results corroborate the important, yet complex, role of predation as an important driver of variation in brain size.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1045-1059
JournalEvolutionary Ecology
Issue number6
Early online dateJun 2022
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022


  • Brain size evolution
  • Guppy
  • Natural selection
  • Phenotypic plasticity
  • Survival


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