Continental variation in relative hippocampal volume in birds : the phylogenetic extent of the effect and the potential role of winter temperatures
Faculty of Sciences. Biology
Biology letters / Royal Society [London] - London
, p. 330-333
University of Antwerp
Hippocampal (HC) volume has been hypothesized to increase with an increase in food-hoarding specialization in corvids and parids. Recent studies revealed that (i) the HC/hoarding relationship is significant when a difference in HC volume between Eurasian and North American species is controlled for and (ii) the evolutionary association has been acting on a broader phylogenetic context involving avian families outside the Corvidae and Paridae. However, the phylogenetic extent of the continent effect has not been previously addressed. Using data representing 48 avian species, we performed a phylogenetic analysis to test if continental effects are important in a wider evolutionary spectrum. Our results support the observation that Eurasian species have generally larger HC than North American species if variation in food hoarding, which also varied between continents, was held constant. Surprisingly, the relationship between continental distribution and relative HC volume was significant when we included only non-hoarding families in our analysis, indicating that the extent of the continent effect is much broader than originally described. We investigated the potential role of minimal winter temperatures at the northernmost distribution borders in mediating continent effects. The effect of winter temperatures on HC volume was weak and it did not vary consistently along continents. We suggest that the general continental differences in relative HC size are independent of food hoarding and that its determinants should be sought among other ecological factors and life-history traits.