Absolute brain size predicts dog breed differences in executive function
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Large-scale phylogenetic studies of animal cognition have revealed robust links between absolute brain volume and species differences in executive function. However, past comparative samples have been composed largely of primates, which are characterized by evolutionarily derived neural scaling rules. Therefore, it is currently unknown whether positive associations between brain volume and executive function reflect a broad-scale evolutionary phenomenon, or alternatively, a unique consequence of primate brain evolution. Domestic dogs provide a powerful opportunity for investigating this question due to their close genetic relatedness, but vast intraspecific variation. Using citizen science data on more than 7000 purebred dogs from 74 breeds, and controlling for genetic relatedness between breeds, we identify strong relationships between estimated absolute brain weight and breed differences in cognition. Specifically, larger-brained breeds performed significantly better on measures of short-term memory and self-control. However, the relationships between estimated brain weight and other cognitive measures varied widely, supporting domain-specific accounts of cognitive evolution. Our results suggest that evolutionary increases in brain size are positively associated with taxonomic differences in executive function, even in the absence of primate-like neuroanatomy. These findings also suggest that variation between dog breeds may present a powerful model for investigating correlated changes in neuroanatomy and cognition among closely related taxa.
Horschler , D J , Hare , B , Call , J , Kaminski , J , Miklosi , A & MacLean , E L 2019 , ' Absolute brain size predicts dog breed differences in executive function ' , Animal Cognition , vol. 22 , no. 2 , pp. 187-198 . https://doi.org/10.1007/s10071-018-01234-1
Copyright © Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019. This work has been made available online in accordance with the publisher’s policies. This is the author created, accepted version manuscript following peer review and may differ slightly from the final published version. The final published version of this work is available at https://doi.org/10.1007/s10071-018-01234-1
DescriptionDJH was supported by an Emil W. Haury Fellowship from the School of Anthropology at the University of Arizona, and a Graduate Access Fellowship from the Graduate College at the University of Arizona. ÁM was supported by the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (MTA-ELTE Comparative Ethology Research Group, MTA 01 031).
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