New bird brain study shows evolving a big brain depends on having ‘good’ parents

In birds, big brains aren’t associated with living in large social groups – instead, they’re linked to long stints of parental feeding.

Of all analysed species traits, only those directly linked to parental care and offspring provisioning showed strong relationships with brain size. Our data showed species that fed their young for a longer time were species with some of the biggest brains (again, relative to body size).

The development style mattered a lot, too. Birds can be easily divided into two large groups. Precocial species are those where juveniles hatch from eggs already relatively well developed (such as chickens, ducks, geese), requiring little to no feeding.

Altricial birds, in contrast, hatch severely underdeveloped. Usually their hatchlings are blind, naked and fully dependent on their parents’ care. This group includes some of the best-known bird groups we encounter every day, such as sparrows, tits, robins and finches.

Because altricial birds receive relatively more care from their parents, we predicted that they should also be able to evolve bigger brains – a pattern that we see clearly in our data.

Two baby birds in a nest with mouths open for food.

Evidence exists that large acceleration of human brain-size evolution was associated with increased number of caregivers and prolonged provisioning of juveniles well into their adolescence.

It also seems mammalian brain size is indeed constrained by the amount of energy mothers can transfer to their offspring until weaning. When it comes to having a large brain, it appears parental love and care come before any subsequent learning.

(ed: the importance of mothering in the evolution of the human species should not be underestimated.

Source: New bird brain study shows evolving a big brain depends on having ‘good’ parents

One thought on “New bird brain study shows evolving a big brain depends on having ‘good’ parents”

  1. I would hypothesise that any change to breast feeding would have an impact on this.

    Breast feeding is intrinsically linked to bonding between a mother and her child. The brains neuro plasticity is literally wiring its circuits within this context.

    I have read on this site the sad tales of detransitioned women who have had the damned double mastectomies of ‘top surgery’ and, now still young are unable to breast feed even if they are still able to conceive, which I would imagine is very doubtful given the hormonal assaults their bodies have received. The tragedy of this trans obsession becomes worse the more one analyses it…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.