Large brains and lengthened life history periods in odontocetes

Louis Lefebvre, Lori Marino, Daniel Sol, Sébastien Lemieux-Lefebvre, Saima Arshad

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    11 Citations (Scopus)


    Previous work on primates and birds suggests that large brains require longer periods of juvenile growth, leading to reproductive constraints due to delayed maturation. However, longevity is often extended in large-brained species, possibly compensating for delayed maturation. We examined the relationship between brain size and life history periods in cetaceans, a large-brained mammalian order that has been largely ignored. We looked at males and females of twenty-five species of Odontocetes, using independent contrasts and multiple regressions to disentangle possible phylogenetic effects and inter-correlations among life history traits. We corrected all variables for body size allometry and separated life span into adult and juvenile periods. For females and both sexes combined, gestation, time to sexual maturity, time as an adult and life span were all positively associated with residual brain size in simple regressions; in multiple regressions, maximum life span and time as an adult were the best predictors of brain size. Males showed few significant trends. Our results suggest that brain size has co-evolved with extended life history periods in Odontocetes, as it has in primates and birds, and that a lengthened adult period could have been an important component of encephalization in cetaceans. Copyright © 2006 S. Karger AG.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)218-228
    JournalBrain, Behavior and Evolution
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2006


    • Brain size
    • Cetaceans
    • Gestation
    • Life history
    • Longevity
    • Sexual maturity


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