Skip to content

Research at St Andrews

Coevolution of cultural intelligence, extended life history, sociality, and brain size in primates

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

DOI

Abstract

Explanations for primate brain expansion and the evolution of human cognition and culture remain contentious despite extensive research. While multiple comparative analyses have investigated variation in brain size across primate species, very few have addressed why primates vary in how much they use social learning. Here, we evaluate the hypothesis that the enhanced reliance on socially transmitted behavior observed in some primates has coevolved with enlarged brains, complex sociality, and extended lifespans. Using recently developed phylogenetic comparative methods we show that, across primate species, a measure of social learning proclivity increases with absolute and relative brain volume, longevity (specifically reproductive lifespan), and social group size, correcting for research effort. We also confirm relationships of absolute and relative brain volume with longevity (both juvenile period and reproductive lifespan) and social group size, although longevity is generally the stronger predictor. Relationships between social learning, brain volume, and longevity remain when controlling for maternal investment and are therefore not simply explained as a by-product of the generally slower life history expected for larger brained species. Our findings suggest that both brain expansion and high reliance on culturally transmitted behavior coevolved with sociality and extended lifespan in primates. This coevolution is consistent with the hypothesis that the evolution of large brains, sociality, and long lifespans has promoted reliance on culture, with reliance on culture in turn driving further increases in brain volume, cognitive abilities, and lifespans in some primate lineages.
Close

Details

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7908-7914
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Volume114
Issue number30
DOIs
StateE-pub ahead of print - 24 Jul 2017
EventExtension of Biology Through Culture - Irvine, United States

    Research areas

  • Cultural evolution, Social learning, Brain evolution, Primates, Phylogenetic comparative analysis

Discover related content
Find related publications, people, projects and more using interactive charts.

View graph of relations

Related by author

  1. The extension of biology through culture

    Whiten, A., Ayala, F., Feldman, M. W. & Laland, K. N. 24 Jul 2017 In : Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. Early Edition, 7 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  2. Sex and pairing status impact how zebra finches use social information in foraging

    Templeton, C. N., Philp, K., Guillette, L. M., Laland, K. N. & Benson-Amram, S. Jun 2017 In : Behavioural Processes. 139, p. 38-42 5 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  3. Schism and Synthesis at the Royal Society

    Laland, K. N. May 2017 In : Trends in Ecology and Evolution. 32, 5, p. 316-317 3 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalEditorial

  4. Extended spider cognition

    Japyassú, H. F. & Laland, K. N. May 2017 In : Animal Cognition. 20, 3, p. 375-395 21 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

  5. Fish pool their experience to solve problems collectively

    Webster, M. M., Whalen, A. C. Z. & Laland, K. N. 18 Apr 2017 In : Nature Ecology and Evolution. 1, 0135

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Related by journal

  1. The extension of biology through culture

    Whiten, A., Ayala, F., Feldman, M. W. & Laland, K. N. 24 Jul 2017 In : Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. Early Edition, 7 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  2. Emergent magnetism at transition-metal–nanocarbon interfaces

    Al Ma’Mari, F., Rogers, . M., Alghamdi, . S., Moorsom, . T., Lee, S. L., Prokscha, T., Luetkens, . H., Valvidare, . M., Teobaldi, . G., Flokstra, M. G., Stewart, R., Gargiani, . P., Ali, . M., Burnell, . G., Hickey, . B. J. & Cespedes, . O. 30 May 2017 In : Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 114, 22, p. 5583-5588 6 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Related by journal

  1. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (Journal)

    Nevels, M. M. (Guest editor)
    Jul 2016 → …

    Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial workEditor of research journal

  2. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (Journal)

    Smith, T. K. (Member of editorial board)
    2012 → …

    Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial workPeer review of manuscripts

  3. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (Journal)

    Smith, T. K. (Member of editorial board)
    2008 → …

    Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial workPeer review of manuscripts

  4. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (Journal)

    Miles, G. B. (Reviewer)
    2006 → …

    Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial workPeer review of manuscripts

ID: 250674914