BEACON TRANSCRIPT – A new study challenges the older hypothesis that primate brain size was determined by social factors. It suggests that their diet was actually responsible for their bigger brain. Their feeding habits triggered the evolution of their brain.
The former theory related to brain size in primates and humans argued that their brains reach such big sizes due to the fact that they led more social lives. However, this new study suggests that their diet could have been more important in establishing brain size.
Diet beats socialization in brain evolution
Previous scientists thought that the difficulties posed by socialization drove the brains of primates to attain bigger sizes. But this was not all. The social skills evolved together with more advanced cognitive skills and the ability to acquire food. Thus, being able to get food in the most difficult of situations was a key factor in the evolution of primate and human brain.
When the researchers had to choose the most important factor which drove this evolution, they had to opt for diet. After all, it seems that the conservation instincts beat the social ones. Of course, the tasks had to be complex to have such a huge impact on brain size. Yet it appears that finding food was more tough for primates than figuring out how to socialize.
The fruit-eaters beat all in brain size
For this new study, researchers analyzed 140 species of primates, which is three times more than other studies. The social hypothesis led them to no conclusive results. All the factors indicated that food was more important. The specimens even developed different types of diets, which rendered different brain sizes.
Primates split into several categories. There are those who consume leaves, fruits, those who eat a combination of the two and, in the end, the omnivores. The fruit consumers were found to have the biggest brains of all. Then, they were followed by those who opted for a diet rich in both fruits and leaves.
Searching for fruits can be a difficult task, and this explains the impressive brain size of those primates who follow this diet. Because they had to find quickly, these species also developed better cognitive skills and are better at problem solving.
Therefore, the social nature of primates and humans did indeed contribute to brain development. However, diet choices were the key factor which led to bigger brain sizes in these specimens.
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