International team of researchers identifies factors affecting brain size of chicks

Piotr Kamionka/REPORTER

Parental involvement influences the brain size of chicks even before they start interacting with other individuals. This is because previous models considered social factors to be of primary importance, an international team of researchers from Krakow, Constance and Zurich has found. The study involved, among others, Dr Szymon Drobniak from the Faculty of Biology at the Jagiellonian University (UJ) in Krakow.

The size of the brain only started to change in birds after a significant change in the care of offspring had occurred through evolution. “That is, the life history changed first, and its consequence was a change in brain size”, says Dr Szymon Drobniak, co-author of the paper ‘Parental provisioning drives brain size in birds’, which was published in the international journal PNAS.

What other factor stimulates the brain even before it has fully developed and thus makes social factors possible? The researchers performed a meta-analysis of data for almost 4,000 bird species. It turns out that even before the social factor, another driver – parental investment – is operating. Parental involvement also performs a much more important role than social factors.

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Medicine and biotechnology