Brain size is under many opposing selection pressures. Estimating their relative influence and reconstructing the brain's evolutionary history have, however, proved difficult. Here, we confirm the suggestion that the brain of brood parasitic cuckoos is smaller in relation to their body weight than that of nonparasitic cuckoo species. Two hypotheses explaining reductions in brain size are tested, using phylogenetically controlled correlations and evolutionary pathway analyses. In a novel approach, the pathway models are combined to build the most likely evolutionary sequence of trait changes correlating with changes in brain size. Brain size changed before brood parasitism, followed by a shift toward less-productive habitats and an increase in migration. This sequence shows that brain size was not reduced as a consequence of a loss of cognitive skills related to chick provisioning, and it offers no support for the hypothesis that an increase in energetic demands or a reduction in energy availability selected for a reduction of brain size. Instead, the sequence suggests that the reduction in energetic demands due to the smaller brain size and parasitic breeding strategy may have enabled parasitic cuckoos to colonize new niches.
You have requested a machine translation of selected content from our databases. This functionality is provided solely for your convenience and is in no way intended to replace human translation. Neither BioOne nor the owners and publishers of the content make, and they explicitly disclaim, any express or implied representations or warranties of any kind, including, without limitation, representations and warranties as to the functionality of the translation feature or the accuracy or completeness of the translations.
Translations are not retained in our system. Your use of this feature and the translations is subject to all use restrictions contained in the Terms and Conditions of Use of the BioOne website.
Vol. 62 • No. 12