Prospects & Overviews
Energetic trade-offs between brain size and offspring production: Marsupials confirm a general mammalian pattern
Article first published online: 21 JAN 2011
Copyright © 2011 WILEY Periodicals, Inc.
Volume 33, Issue 3, pages 173–179, March 2011
How to Cite
Isler, K. (2011), Energetic trade-offs between brain size and offspring production: Marsupials confirm a general mammalian pattern. Bioessays, 33: 173–179. doi: 10.1002/bies.201000123
- Issue published online: 14 FEB 2011
- Article first published online: 21 JAN 2011
- cooperative care;
- life history;
- maternal energy hypothesis;
Recently, Weisbecker and Goswami presented the first comprehensive comparative analysis of brain size, metabolic rate, and development periods in marsupial mammals. In this paper, a strictly energetic perspective is applied to identify general mammalian correlates of brain size evolution. In both marsupials and placentals, the duration or intensity of maternal investment is a key correlate of relative brain size, but here I show that allomaternal energy subsidies may also play a role. In marsupials, an energetic constraint on brain size in adults is only revealed if we consider both metabolic and reproductive rates simultaneously, because a strong trade-off between encephalization and offspring production masks the positive correlation between basal metabolic rate and brain size in a bivariate comparison. In conclusion, starting from an energetic perspective is warranted to elucidate relations between ecology, social systems, life history, and brain size in all mammals.