Metabolic rate and body size are linked with perception of temporal information
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Body size and metabolic rate both fundamentally constrain how species interact with their environment, and hence ultimately affect their niche. While many mechanisms leading to these constraints have been explored, their effects on the resolution at which temporal information is perceived have been largely overlooked. The visual system acts as a gateway to the dynamic environment and the relative resolution at which organisms are able to acquire and process visual information is likely to restrict their ability to interact with events around them. As both smaller size and higher metabolic rates should facilitate rapid behavioural responses, we hypothesized that these traits would favour perception of temporal change over finer timescales. Using critical flicker fusion frequency, the lowest frequency of flashing at which a flickering light source is perceived as constant, as a measure of the maximum rate of temporal information processing in the visual system, we carried out a phylogenetic comparative analysis of a wide range of vertebrates that supported this hypothesis. Our results have implications for the evolution of signalling systems and predator-prey interactions, and, combined with the strong influence that both body mass and metabolism have on a species' ecological niche, suggest that time perception may constitute an important and overlooked dimension of niche differentiation.
Healy , K , McNally , L , Ruxton , G D , Cooper , N & Jackson , A L 2013 , ' Metabolic rate and body size are linked with perception of temporal information ' Animal Behaviour , vol 86 , no. 4 , pp. 685-696 . DOI: 10.1016/j.anbehav.2013.06.018
© 2013 The Authors. Published on behalf of The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
This work was carried out as part of the Earth and Natural Sciences (ENS) Doctoral Studies Programme, funded by the Higher Education Authority (HEA) through the Programme for Research at Third Level Institutions, Cycle 5 (PRTLI-5), co-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). This work was also supported by a strategic award from the Wellcome Trust for the Centre for Immunity, Infection and Evolution (Grant reference 095831).
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