Emu Emu Society
Journal of BirdLife Australia
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Relative brain size in Australian birds

Donald C. Franklin A E , Stephen T. Garnett A , Gary W. Luck B , Cristian Gutierrez-Ibanez C and Andrew N. Iwaniuk D

A Research Institute for the Environment & Livelihoods, Charles Darwin University, Darwin, NT 0909, Australia.

B Institute for Land, Water and Society, Charles Sturt University, PO Box 789, Albury, NSW 2640, Australia.

C Centre for Neuroscience, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, T6G 2E9, Canada.

D Canadian Centre for Behavioural Neuroscience, University of Lethbridge, Lethbridge, AB, T1K 3M4, Canada.

E Corresponding author. Email: don.franklin@cdu.edu.au

Emu 114(2) 160-170 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/MU13034
Submitted: 2 May 2013  Accepted: 9 September 2013   Published: 25 March 2014

Abstract

Among species, relative brain size (RBS) is correlated with aspects of ecology and behaviour. We analysed patterns of RBS in Australian birds based on 3164 measurements of brain size in 504 species, and provide species-level data for further analysis. Regression slopes calculated both with and without phylogenetic correction are provided for all species and for well-represented orders and passerine families. Patterns of brain-size allometry differ among orders but the evidence for variation among passerine families is equivocal, depending on the method of analysis. These differences are attributable both to absolute differences in RBS corresponding to different regression intercepts and to different regression slopes. Allometric patterns in Australian birds are virtually identical to those reported elsewhere, with large RBS in parrots, cockatoos and owls, and particularly small RBS in galliforms, dromaiids, grebes, swifts and swallows. Our data can be used to generate hypotheses about the drivers of RBS in particular avian groups. For example, small RBS in unrelated aerial foragers suggests that physical constraints may influence the evolution of RBS.


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