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Supplementary Material for: Relative Brain Size and Its Relation with the Associative Pallium in Birds

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posted on 19.04.2016, 00:00 by Sayol F., Lefebvre L., Sol D.
Despite growing interest in the evolution of enlarged brains, the biological significance of brain size variation remains controversial. Much of the controversy is over the extent to which brain structures have evolved independently of each other (mosaic evolution) or in a coordinated way (concerted evolution). If larger brains have evolved by the increase of different brain regions in different species, it follows that comparisons of the whole brain might be biologically meaningless. Such an argument has been used to criticize comparative attempts to explain the existing variation in whole-brain size among species. Here, we show that pallium areas associated with domain-general cognition represent a large fraction of the entire brain, are disproportionally larger in large-brained birds and accurately predict variation in the whole brain when allometric effects are appropriately accounted for. While this does not question the importance of mosaic evolution, it suggests that examining specialized, small areas of the brain is not very helpful for understanding why some birds have evolved such large brains. Instead, the size of the whole brain reflects consistent variation in associative pallium areas and hence is functionally meaningful for comparative analyses.