Primates such as people have evolved larger brains for our bodies than other animals of a similar size. One popular theory explaining this suggests that, over time, more social species developed larger brains. Now research suggests that bigger brains may have first evolved in primates with a more nutritious diet. The study looked at more than 140 species of primates, such as the marmoset pictured. It showed that fruit-eating primates have significantly larger brains relative to their body size than those that eat just leaves. The researchers suggest that primates with large brains were better able to forage for fruits and extract them from their skins. This may have made the animals healthier and more likely to survive and reproduce than those with smaller brains. As brain size evolved in line with eating habits, it may have laid the foundations for social skills to develop later, suggest the researchers.
Written by Charlotte Rose Davison
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.