The costs of a big brain outweigh the benefits

Featured image is in the public domain.

Brains rather than braun may have guided our ancestors out of Africa, but new research suggests primates’ big brains are no longer the assets they once were.

A study published in the journal Evolution reports that larger brains are directly related to an increased risk of extinction in modern primates. Researchers led by Alejandro Gonzalez-Voyer at Doñana Biological Station in Spain, compared published data on 474 species of mammal, with their IUCN Redlist categorisations, to find out how different biological traits influence extinction risk. The team found that larger brains tend to be associated with a longer gestation period, longer weaning period and smaller litter sizes, all of which indirectly increase extinction risk.

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Cuckolding common in nature, but rare in humans

Featured image by Tomfriedel, used under a creative commons licence from Wikimedia.

Fathers can breath a sigh of relief. Although biologists have found cuckolding, where one male unwittingly raises the offspring of another male, is common in animal societies, it appears humans are one of the few exceptions.

A recent review published in Trends in Ecology & Evolution on 5th April claims that across modern and ancient human societies, women tended to be faithful to their partners.

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Ancient Beast was part-sabretooth, part-otter

Featured image used under a creative commons license from MorphoSource.

The extinct carnivore, Kolponomos, looked like a bear, and bit like a sabre-toothed tiger.

A group of carnivores that went extinct around 20 million years ago looked superficially like modern bears, but new research shows their bite was more similar to sabre-toothed cats. Known as Kolponomos, these extinct bears were thought to feed on shelled organisms, like modern otters, but with few fossils to go on, their diet and lifestyle has remained contentious.

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Social Supergene is a Green Beard for Fire Ants

Featured image is used under a creative commons license from Wikimedia commons. Original image from AntWeb.

Scientists have found the final missing link answering a long-standing question about how social behaviour evolves. New research shows that a social supergene in fire ants coordinates a host of biological processes and behaviours, that ultimately determine how sociable their colonies are, and who they choose to be their queen.

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It’s all about smell:
An Olfactory Arms Race in the Animal Kingdom

Featured image is used under a creative commons license from Wikimedia Commons. Original image by JuliusR.

Animals use smell to sniff out predators, and to hide from them.

For humans, vision is the dominant sense, and we often overlook the importance of odour (although we’re reminded on those occasions we find ourselves sat next to someone who’s never discovered deodorant, or driving past a particularly pungent farm). But for most animals, it’s all about smell. Two new studies published last month highlight the importance of smell in the lives of animals as different as flies and snakes.

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