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Keywords:

  • brain;
  • brain size;
  • marine mammals;
  • thermogenesis;
  • intelligence;
  • cognition;
  • encephalisation;
  • dolphin;
  • cetacean;
  • temperature

Abstract

In a recent publication in Biological Reviews, Manger (2006) made the controversial claim that the large brains of cetaceans evolved to generate heat during oceanic cooling in the Oligocene epoch and not, as is the currently accepted view, as a basis for an increase in cognitive or information-processing capabilities in response to ecological or social pressures. Manger further argued that dolphins and other cetaceans are considerably less intelligent than generally thought. In this review we challenge Manger’s arguments and provide abundant evidence that modern cetacean brains are large in order to support complex cognitive abilities driven by social and ecological forces.