Big-Brained Mammals More Likely To Go Extinct

First Posted: Feb 17, 2016 10:12 AM EST

A bigger brain may not be best after all. Mammals that possess a large brain are often smarter, but they also have a greater chance of becoming extinct. A large brain needs an efficient blood supply, which in turn requires a lot of energy. In the latest study, Eric Abelson, a Stanford University researcher, found a connection between larger brains and the risk of extinction.

Abelson analyzed museum samples of over 1,650 animals from 160 different species in the Americas, where he measured the skulls and body sizes of animals that ranged from as small as rodents to as massive as buffaloes. These creatures did not include aquatic animals. Abelson then checked these animals' status on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's global endangered species list. He also examined second batch of data of over 600 species of animals worldwide.

Abelson detected a pattern, which indicated that animals with larger brains were more at risk of becoming extinct. Abelson found that in the Americas, the link was even higher for strong animals with a large brain relative to their body size.

"This likely represents a case of endangerment filtering," Abelson said in a news release. "Species in North America have gone through a period where large-bodied species had suffered large population losses."

Some of these large-bodied animals are already extinct or they are classified as endangered, according to Abelson. He claimed that additional research needs to be conducted on brain and body size, in order for scientists to make predictions on extinction.

The findings of this study were published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences.

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