Wild cats don’t respond to evolutionary pressures

Does the size of the frontal lobe in both mammals and humans indicate sociability and, more so, what role does evolution play in that size? A new study offers some insights.

Researchers from Michigan State University (MSU) concluded that the brains of wild cats don't necessarily respond to the same evolutionary pressures as those of their fellow mammals, humans and primates. Overall brain size did not differ, on average, between the social and solitary species of wild cats.

The study was published online in the journal Frontiers in Neuroanatomy on Oct. 20. 

The researchers examined 75 wild feline skulls, representing 13 species, obtained from museum collections, including those at MSU. The researchers used computed tomography (CT) scans and sophisticated software to digitally "fill in" the areas where the brains would have been. From that process, they determined brain volume.

"We wanted to know if this idea, called the 'social brain' hypothesis, applied to other social mammals, especially carnivores and, in particular, wild cats," Sharleen T. Sakai, PhD.

"Our findings suggest the factors that drive brain evolution in wild cats are likely to differ from selection pressures identified in primate brain evolution."

Photo credit: © iStock/sdominick

NEWStat Advancements & research News