For Bird Brains, Bigger Is Better

Patricia Reaney, Reuters, Jan. 10, 2007

Birds with bigger brains like crows and parrots survive better than their dimmer feathered friends, according to a study published on Wednesday.

Scientists have suspected that birds with large brains in relation to their body size lived longer because they were able to adapt their behavior and cope with environmental challenges.

Now they have provided evidence that it does.

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After comparing mortality rates, brain size and body mass of 236 species of birds from different regions of the world, Sol and scientists in Britain, Hungary and Canada discovered that the bigger the brain the better.

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Crows, ravens and parrots have the largest brains, while pheasants have a relatively small brain.

Earlier studies have shown there is a relationship between the size of the brain and an animal’s capacity to create new behaviors and adapt more easily.

Studies of primates have produced similar findings.

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Big-brained birds are also better at colonizing new regions and coping with changing seasons.

Tamas Szekely, of the University of Bath in England and a co-author of the report, said birds were ideal to test the hypothesis because they are the only species in which brain size and behavioral response to environmental challenges is understood.

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