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Small, Big-Brained Animals Dodge Extinction

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the alive-and-dumb dept.

Earth 85

ananyo writes "Large-brained animals may be less likely to go extinct in a changing world, perhaps because they can use their greater intelligence to adapt their behavior to new conditions, according to an analysis presented to a meeting of conservation biologists this week. Plotting brain size against body size creates a tidy curve. But some species have bigger or smaller brains than the curve would predict for their body size. And a bigger brain-to-body-size ratio usually means a smarter animal. The researchers looked at the sizes of such deviations from the curve and their relationships to the fates of two groups of mammalian species — 'palaeo' and 'modern'. Analysis of each group produced similar results: species that weighed less than 10 kilograms and had big brains for their body size were less likely to have gone extinct or be placed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature red list for endangered species. For species larger than about 10 kilograms, the advantage of having a large brain seems to be swamped by the disadvantage of being big — such as attracting the unwelcome attention of humans."

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Cool beans (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40695235)

That there shure was one miiiiiiightily fayne ahticle.

Re:Cool beans (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40695659)

They've got niggers in here?! Somebody alert the mods...

Re:Cool beans (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40696287)

Ever notice Obama has a head the size of a baseball?
Jackson and Sharpton are definitely Microcephallic, but it' is not as pronounced.
What am I thinking, they all have slight brow ridges as well, so maybe it's not the size of the head, maybe it's the amount of monkey DNA.
We can all agree they are stupid monkeys even if they just happen to be Negroes.
It is not racist to notice 90% of Negroes are too stupid to live on their own or care for a family, because 10% do, so it couldn't be because their skin is black.
It is because their brains tend to be underdeveloped, voluntarily even. Obama is the worst president we've ever had and the last blackish one who will ever sit in the oval office. I hope his Negroishness doesn't reflect badly on Negroes everywhere. If we could only give each family a little house on someones farm, they could earn their keep and live happy productive lives, proud to contribute what they are able to society. All it would cost is to house and feed a family and the time to train them to do sundry farm work. You could even give them a little stipend for clothing above the frost line. Careful, money only corrupts their monkey-like brains and they get delusional about their personal skills and abilities. Yet 10% do just as well as the rest of us. Perhaps they should be the first to beta-care for a family of microcephallic Negroes.

Two ways of surviving changes (1)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | more than 2 years ago | (#40695679)

One of the ways was already outlined by TFA - using intelligence to adapt their behavior to the changing environment

The other way is to evolve, and to evolve very very rapidly - in a shotgun approach - to ensure that _some_ of the offsprings, no matter how much they have changed, would made it through
 

Re:Cool beans (1)

micahraleigh (2600457) | more than 2 years ago | (#40700585)

The reason frenology (a way of evaluating people based on their heads) failed was because it was inseparable from racism. Secularists who value each other based on who appears to have the biggest brains will one day be discredited as superficial and evil.

Except (0, Troll)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 2 years ago | (#40695333)

Yeah, because brain size alone is directly equivalent to intelligence. I would venture that the authors of this study have rather small brains.

Re:Except (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40695391)

I was thinking the exact same thing - I remember reading that at least for humans brain size is not correlated with intelligence (at least as measured by IQ). Though I'm sure the authors of the study are aware of this, I'm also positive that the "journalists" reporting on it aren't.

Re:Except (0)

hey_popey (1285712) | more than 2 years ago | (#40695497)

at least as measured by IQ

This is the most important part... Don't forget that our definition of intelligence today might be very different from the original "natural" one, as in "surviving in a wild environment". Maybe the bigger brain is better suited for the wildlife thing; from TFA: "Animals with larger brains relative to their body size have been shown to be more likely to thrive when introduced to new places"
On an another subject, I cannot find the curve they're referring to, to predict the brain size from the body's. From what I understand, it seems to be really curvy, not linear, so I am not sure it is that reliable for such predictions...Moreover, it is only applicable to mammals.

Re:Except (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40695629)

"On an another subject, I cannot find the curve they're referring to"

On an an on an another subject, you're a tool. Don't tell me what the most important part is, especially when you're not even paying attention yourself.

Re:Except (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40696311)

My most important part has nothing to do with thinking, you should taste it sometime.

Re:Except (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40697039)

This is the most important part... Don't forget that our definition of intelligence today might be very different from the original "natural" one, as in "surviving in a wild environment"

The fact that "as measured by IQ" is there in my own comment indicates I at am at least aware that this issue is not straightforward.

If your definition of animal intelligence is "intelligent == more likely to survive in the wild", pray read the start of the first sentence again...

"Large-brained animals may be less likely to go extinct in a changing world, perhaps because they can use their greater intelligence

... and perform the substitution:

"Large-brained animals may be less likely to go extinct in a changing world, perhaps because they are more likely to survive in the wild

Err, what? Tautology much? So yeah, the TFA may or may not imply brain size intelligence correlation (for a given definition of "intelligence"), but to me the most important thing is that the article that the world as a whole is presented with is written by people who do not seem to have even a basic grasp of the subject matter.

Also for the record your insightful definition of intelligence is a bit odd - I would argue that bacteria for example aren't the most intelligent organisms (but boy can those suckers survive harsh environments).

Re:Except (4, Informative)

sFurbo (1361249) | more than 2 years ago | (#40695415)

m(brain)/m(body) is used as a rough estimate of intelligence in animals. The encaphalization ratio [wikipedia.org] , which is what is used in TFA, is more precise, but harder to calculate. Both of them is rough enough to only work for comparisons between species, not between individuals within the same species.

Re:Except (1)

KiloByte (825081) | more than 2 years ago | (#40695789)

Take a look at sharks: they got massive brains, comparable to mammals of similar sizes, and were able to survive mostly unchanged for 450 million years. That's older than land animals exist.

Re:Except (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40696221)

Take a look at sharks: they got massive brains, comparable to mammals of similar sizes, and were able to survive mostly unchanged for 450 million years. That's older than land animals exist.

The lasers provide a survival advantage.

Re:Except (1)

flyneye (84093) | more than 2 years ago | (#40696351)

Not smart enough to grow bones let alone legs and evolve into politicians. You got a point, sharks are dumb. Inability to adapt to modern needs and further the species up the food chain would make them the equivalent of todays Repubmocrats and their analogs worldwide.

Re:Except (3, Funny)

gman003 (1693318) | more than 2 years ago | (#40698199)

Penalty! Invalid politicization of scientific debate - five minutes in the penalty box!

Re:Except (2)

tobiah (308208) | more than 2 years ago | (#40700047)

Shark brains are tiny, but their distributed nervous system is perhaps more autonomous and substantial than mammalian ones. I've had a dogfish (small Atlantic shark) wiggle off the cutting board and swim away well after I had head and gutted it. When you eat their fresh meat it squirms when you bite it. Mako has a significantly bigger brain than a blue shark, but they're both much smaller than a deer's brain.

Re:Except (1)

flyneye (84093) | more than 2 years ago | (#40696329)

At that point, scatological testing points up evidence of those individuals who feed themselves well enough to live long lives and thus a rudimentary intelligence just a bit higher than the benchmark. No shit....

Re:Except (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40699089)

Actualy the important bit is that brain burns a lot of energy which is why we don't see smart animals everywhere. Given similar body weight, having more of that weight occupied by brain means that the animal has evolved with greater importance of inteligence (larger brain needs more energy) but just because inteligence is more imporant compared to other similaranimals doesn't mean there's more of it than a larger animal would have. Anyway, the point stands - inteligence helps to survive, at least as long as you don't become too big to evaid the best killing machine on Earth - fully armed and trained hordes of Homo Sapiens Sapiens.

Re:Except (1)

micahraleigh (2600457) | more than 2 years ago | (#40700531)

How could this be true? What about Dinosaurs? Mammoths? And on the other end roaches will never go extinct even though they have hardly any brains at all. People that think too much are neurotic, anxious, indecisive, and serially unhappy. Bertrand Russell (a pro-science, pro-thinking guy) understood this and it bothered him to no end!

Re:Except (1)

Z8 (1602647) | more than 2 years ago | (#40702905)

As other people have pointed out, this isn't necessarily a good measure. If two animals have the same brain size and one is smaller, it doesn't mean the smaller one is smarter.

A better measure may just be the number of neurons in the cerebral cortex. See this list [wikipedia.org] for example. Humans come out on top by this definition, even though whales have much bigger brains.

Re:Except (1)

Dupple (1016592) | more than 2 years ago | (#40695425)

It's not about brain size alone though.

From the Summary

"And a bigger brain-to-body-size ratio usually means a smarter animal"

Intelligence isn't even mentioned, behavioural flexibility is.

Re:Except (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40695437)

Hmmm 'Smarter'. Intelligence can be measured in a number of ways.

The article doesn't imply academic achievement, it implies using the bigger brain to adapt the 'behavioural flexibility' part

Re:Except (0)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 2 years ago | (#40695517)

I'm not arguing that point. It makes sense that you need a complex brain to be able to solve new problems, and the more complicated the brain the more neurons and synapses you need, which affects size. But the conclusion that animals with a larger "brain to body" ratio are necessarily "smarter" cannot be supported beyond wild speculation, meaning that this "study" is not really good science. First prove to me that a brain/body ratio is always correlated to higher "intelligence", and then we can argue that "high brain/body animals survive better BECAUSE of intelligence".

Re:Except (1, Insightful)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 2 years ago | (#40695551)

So human populations that are wiped out by disease or natural disaster are not smart enough to survive and if we look hard enough humans who have survived have bigger brains? There are plenty of variables that go into determining whether a species becomes extinct or not. Quite a few of them are exogenous to the species. It doesn't matter how smart a fish you are when your lake dries up. Behaviour does not solve all problems or guarantee survival.

Re:Except (3, Insightful)

DarkOx (621550) | more than 2 years ago | (#40695859)

You have to look at it in aggregate the way the study is. Groups of individuals wiped out in natural disasters are just that individuals. Humans survive those disasters because our big brains have enabled large populations of us to live outside what might be considered our most natural habitat. That geographic diversity has protected us as a species from natural disasters.

Your fish example is kinda the same issue. No individual fish however smart is going to be able to cope with the lake going totally dry. However smarter fish might be able to last longer in a lake with changing ecology and shrinking size, during a severe drought, and therefore survive until the rains come. While other species in the lake might die out.

A fish might migrate to a new lake when they are joined by floods. When they separate again a smarter fish species might be better equipped to adapt to the environment of the new lake, colonizing it successfully where other species might have failed. That might enable it to survive as a species even after the first lake dries up.

Re:Except (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 2 years ago | (#40696913)

But if you are suggesting brain power as a driving evolutionary force, then this fails to explain that large brains are a fairly "recent" development in evolutionary time. Look at all the variability in size, shape and color. All that came about by evolutionary forces. Brains have been around for a long, long time, however. And while the brain has developed, and I am sure behavior has advanced, there are still some pretty stupid creatures around that seem to be doing just fine.

Re:Except (1)

luis_a_espinal (1810296) | more than 2 years ago | (#40698175)

But if you are suggesting brain power as a driving evolutionary force, then this fails to explain that large brains are a fairly "recent" development in evolutionary time.

Large brains are not a recent development (think cephalopods and sharks.)

Re:Except (1)

luis_a_espinal (1810296) | more than 2 years ago | (#40698011)

So human populations that are wiped out by disease or natural disaster are not smart enough to survive and if we look hard enough humans who have survived have bigger brains?

In the spans of centuries or even millenia? No. In the millions-long time spans from the early Homo species to the precent? Very likely.

There are plenty of variables that go into determining whether a species becomes extinct or not.

True. Glaciation, desertification, plagues. Barring sudden, catastrophic events, like the Toba supervolcanic eruption event, most of these variables are gradual, taking millenia to occur. That is the general case, and in the general case the ability to cope with such events, be it by physical or behavioral/intelligence adaptations is what matters. In the case of Human evolution, the ongoing development intelligence and cognitive skills have been the primary factors.

Quite a few of them are exogenous to the species.

All of them are exogenous to the species. It's how species adapt, physically or cognitively, that determine survival. In more intelligent species, intelligence takes a greater role than physical adaptation alone.

It doesn't matter how smart a fish you are when your lake dries up. Behaviour does not solve all problems or guarantee survival.

But that's not what TFA suggests. It simply says that when you take a very large sample of species (recent and prehistoric) over very long period of times, and map brain/mass ratio vs extintion events, there seems to be a correlation between brain/mass ratio and survival. It says nothing about any specific species on a very specific and narrow time frame on a very specific and narrow change of living conditions. That's a corner case.

Re:Except (1)

flyneye (84093) | more than 2 years ago | (#40696369)

Intelligence dictates behavior, what's the problem with the correlation?

Re:Except (1)

Shinobi (19308) | more than 2 years ago | (#40699347)

More intelligence does not directly tie to behavioural flexibility. Many highly intelligent people are very rigid in their doctrine, refusing to adapt. Many highly intelligent people also overspecialise(As the quote goes: Overspecialise and you breed in weakness).

Re:Except (1)

flyneye (84093) | more than 2 years ago | (#40706861)

No , but it ties to a probable pallet of behavioral choices. You use only the tools you have available.

Re:Except (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40705793)

Intelligence doesn't dictate behavior any more than it dictates success, ability or morality. It's very possible to have an extremely intelligent, rude fucking prick of a gang-banger. The fact that his intelligence is greater than those trying to catch him just means he will continue to be a rude fucking prick of a gang-banger for a longer period of time.

Re:Except (1)

flyneye (84093) | more than 2 years ago | (#40706921)

It dictates a pallet of probable behaviors. You only use the tools you have. Success, morality and ability are an oddly Freudian assumption. Have you been bothered by these gang bangers? Do you feel somehow intimidated by ethnic men? Are you in the demographic of middle aged men? Do you consider your self virile and an active breeder? What was your relationship with your father like before you left home? Your mother?
You seem to be an angry person, with a bit of work we can bring catharsis and send you on your way, delusion free...

Re:Except (2)

brunes69 (86786) | more than 2 years ago | (#40696193)

RELATIVE brain size is closely correlated with intelligence - not absolute brain size. The brain size of a whale is MUCH larger than yours, but that is because it has a lot more body to regulate. Dolphins have larger brains than humans and much larger than chimps, and while they obviously have some intelligence, there is no evidence that they are more intelligent than humans or chimps.

Re:Except (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40696411)

so long and thanks for all fish !!

Re:Except (1)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 2 years ago | (#40697341)

Yeah, because brain size alone is directly equivalent to intelligence. I would venture that the authors of this study have rather small brains.

It's pretty well correlated if you compare the ratio of body:brain.

Which they're doing. It even says so in the summary.

Re:Except (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40698059)

What is it about small, big-brained animals made you think it was about brain size alone??? "Small" is the FIRST word of the headline!!! Dumbfuck.

Re:Except (1)

Barsteward (969998) | more than 2 years ago | (#40699907)

That means the day of the troll is almost over....

I can see the Slashdot crowd jump on this (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40695357)

"If animals get extinct it's because they're stupid. Let's extinguish more species to help natural selection."

rats beg to disagree (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40695363)

Some people are less intelligent than my pet rats I used to have. I do not thing size matters at all actually.

Re:rats beg to disagree (0)

quadrox (1174915) | more than 2 years ago | (#40695423)

> I do not thing size matters at all actually.

In your case I'm inclined to agree.

How about animals with small brains ... (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40695495)

... but huge dicks? Did they dodge extinction ?

Re:How about animals with small brains ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40697371)

Yes, look at the US Olympic Basketball team.

Re:How about animals with small brains ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40698479)

:-) You cracked me up, man!

The main reason for going extinct: (0)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 2 years ago | (#40695519)

Being tasty.

Re:The main reason for going extinct: (5, Insightful)

RabidTimmy (1415817) | more than 2 years ago | (#40695557)

It can be argued that this is often the exact opposite case. Chickens and cows as species are doing phenomenal with no end in the foreseeable future for the sole reason that they are tasty and we've decided to keep them around.

A Modest Porpoisal [colbertnation.com]

Snake meat tastes much better than chicken meat (1)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | more than 2 years ago | (#40695767)

Chickens and cows as species are doing phenomenal with no end in the foreseeable future for the sole reason that they are tasty

 
If taste is the only criteria, snakes taste much better than chickens !!
 

Re:Snake meat tastes much better than chicken meat (1)

Yaotzin (827566) | more than 2 years ago | (#40696057)

I think I had snake once, and it was really quite tasty. I don't know which kind it was, or indeed if it really was a snake. The idea of snake farming is rather amusing though, especially if there's a risk/reward factor there. Is there a golden taste-to-poison ratio?

Re:Snake meat tastes much better than chicken meat (4, Informative)

Savage-Rabbit (308260) | more than 2 years ago | (#40696363)

I think I had snake once, and it was really quite tasty. I don't know which kind it was, or indeed if it really was a snake. The idea of snake farming is rather amusing though, especially if there's a risk/reward factor there. Is there a golden taste-to-poison ratio?

While there are many species of venomous snakes there are vey few species of poisonous ones. Many kinds of snake venom can be ingested. The venom will not kill you (unless you have a wound in your mouth) but it may make you throw up. That's why you can suck snake venom from a wound without dying yourself.

Re:Snake meat tastes much better than chicken meat (1)

Lando (9348) | more than 2 years ago | (#40698789)

Furthermore, most snakes have their poison glands near their mouths. The actual meat/body of the snake isn't saturated in poison, although I assume they might have some resistance to it.

Re:Snake meat tastes much better than chicken meat (1)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 2 years ago | (#40702225)

Whoever got the idea that you should suck snake POISON out of a wound and then SWALLOW IT? What the hell? Whores don't even swallow.

Cows, chicken, pigs have parasites. (2)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 2 years ago | (#40696049)

All these species, chicken, cows, pigs, etc are afflicted by one of the most deadly parasites of the species Homo sapiens. This is a slow acting cunning parasite, that allows the animals to reproduce before killing them. Thus they never develop an immunity to this parasite.

Re:The main reason for going extinct: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40696153)

Tasty things are so good to keep around.

Re:The main reason for going extinct: (1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | more than 2 years ago | (#40697171)

Except there are far far more examples of species we drove to extinction because we liked them.

Re:The main reason for going extinct: (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 2 years ago | (#40699411)

Except there are far far more examples of species we drove to extinction because we liked them.

Think of it as evolution in action....

Re:The main reason for going extinct: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40700419)

Hello, reverend_norman [slashdot.org] here. It looks like you were right: they're pretty much raping the shit out of me right now. If you've read Snow Crash, it's similar to that, but incremental where parts of my brain are being made to love an AI. I'm feeding myself ice cream while writing this and she/it encouraged me to hold it in my mouth for a bit. And it was really cold.

They researched on the wrong head (0)

jsse (254124) | more than 2 years ago | (#40695591)

Small animals survived last five mass extinctions because they have relatively large penis, not the brains. Human dominates over other species simply because we have biggest penis, relatively to our size. Bigger penis is always been an advantage over bigger brain, in any given time of history, or party.

So you should be proud of your species dominance for having a bigger penis, no matter how small in absolute term it is; chances that it's already bigger than an average chimpanzee, in relative term.

Good (1)

M0j0_j0j0 (1250800) | more than 2 years ago | (#40695939)

That will explain the Japanese resilience.

Welp... (1)

grcumb (781340) | more than 2 years ago | (#40696203)

Well, that explains Ewoks, I guess.

Hmmm.... George Lucas was actually right about something. Has anyone measured his skull capacity recently?

Re:Welp... (1)

antdude (79039) | more than 2 years ago | (#40699005)

What about Jar Jar Binks?

Evolve this! (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | more than 2 years ago | (#40696307)

> "Large-brained animals may be less likely to go extinct in a changing world, perhaps because
> they can use their greater intelligence to adapt their behavior to new conditions, according to an
> analysis presented to a meeting of conservation biologists this week.

Umm, they're only figuring this out now?

Each step in evolution has involved milestones that allow a magnitude or more faster scouring of the evolution fitness gradient descent space.

Slowest
1. Random mutation due to stray neutron or copy error
2. Sexual crossover reproduction
3. Random, controlled re-juggling of genes in a safe-ish way (children look different from parents)
4. Intelligence -- allows learning by observation both from parents and from (possibly accidental) trial-and-error

The latter bails on the genes directly entirely, making behavior not of hard-wrought instinctual genetic-based behavior, but from information transfer and gradient descent space exploration outside of gene modification.

Nobody realized this chain? Well. I guess I just did 50 years of biologists' work, you lazy, lazy sods.

Next step: Computer simulation of genes and genetic algorithms to test out things at high speed, which we then self-modify. Far faster scouring of the fitness gradient descent space.

Re:Evolve this! (1)

Daetrin (576516) | more than 2 years ago | (#40697845)

Alternatively one could formulate a hypothesis, make a prediction based on your hypothesis, figure out a way to test that prediction (either by direct experiment or comparison to previous measurements), perform the test, and verify the results. Welcome to science! You may like it here!

...oh sorry, nevermind, from the above it seems that you're of the "make a wild-ass guess and then go home and call it a day" philosophy. I suppose it's always easy to make fun of people doing the actual work than to do it yourself.

More seriously you're also entirely skipping over the part where they determined the benefit of intelligence vs the detriment of being large.

Until our Brains get too big! (1)

na1led (1030470) | more than 2 years ago | (#40697077)

Then, those brains destroy the whole world!

How do bigger brains protect you.... (1)

mark-t (151149) | more than 2 years ago | (#40697311)

... from a major extinction event, such as a large asteroid collision?

Isn't that what wiped out the dinosaurs?

Re:How do bigger brains protect you.... (1)

Daetrin (576516) | more than 2 years ago | (#40697897)

Hmmm, so what happened in that case? Let's see, the large small-brained dinosaurs all died, while some of the small large-brained mammals survived, reproduced, and evolved. Exactly matching up with the research in this study. So what's the question exactly? I mean i could come up with a bunch of theories as to the exact ways in which relatively big brains helped the mammals survive, but that seems slightly outside the scope of the discussion.

Re:How do bigger brains protect you.... (1)

slashmydots (2189826) | more than 2 years ago | (#40697945)

If that's all they used as a comparison, I'd say warm blooded vs cold blooded just miiiiight have had a little, tiny, 100% bit to do with it.
For intra-mammal comparison, once their brains get large enough, they destroy the entire planet :-P The theory kinda falls apart then.

Re:How do bigger brains protect you.... (2)

Daetrin (576516) | more than 2 years ago | (#40698173)

Actually, there's a "popular" opinion among paleontologists now that a lot of the dinosaurs were warm blooded, or something like it. [wikipedia.org] So that's not a sufficient explanation. Size was probably a much bigger factor, which is part of what this whole study was about. When times are good, being large helps you out-compete others. When times are hard, like after an asteroid strike or while a particular large-brain mammal is busy destroying the planet, being small makes it easier to hide and lets you get by on less food.

And pointing out that in the real world trends don't continue on infinitely isn't really contributing anything unless you've got at least a theory, and preferably some kind of experiment, to establish where exactly those boundaries are. Just shouting "Being small and big-brained is good, but if you get too small then you don't have any room for a brain!" or "Being large is good, but if you get too large the square-cube law means you won't be able to move!" doesn't contribute a great deal.

But even so, we're rather large ourselves. If we kill off ourselves but don't manage to kill off all other life on the planet, it's quite likely that we'll take most of the other large animals with us, but quite a number of small large-brained animals will survive. (Rats in particular strike me as being pretty good survivors.) So the theory _still_ holds.

Re:How do bigger brains protect you.... (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 2 years ago | (#40699353)

Let's see, the large small-brained dinosaurs all died, while some of the small large-brained mammals survived, reproduced, and evolved.

Last I checked, birds had been moved under dinosauria, which means that the smaller, large-brained dinosaurs survived the C-T event quite nicely.

And if you bother to check, you'll notice that birds dominated the world for ten million years or so after the C-T event, not mammals...

Re:How do bigger brains protect you.... (1)

Daetrin (576516) | more than 2 years ago | (#40699521)

I said "the large small-brained dinosaurs all died". You said the small large-brained dinosaurs (aka birds) survived. What exactly is the conflict? I admit i didn't specifically address the case of birds, but there were a lot of things that survived besides just mammals that i didn't address either. I also said the mammals survived, reproduced and evolved, which they clearly did because here we are right now. I didn't claim they dominated during any specific period.

If you want to champion the case of birds that's fine. However all i did was gave a general outline of a small part of the situation, and nothing i said was grossly inaccurate, so please stop trying to frame things as if that were the case.

Re:How do bigger brains protect you.... (1)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 2 years ago | (#40698717)

As others have pointed out, bigger brains might allow a species to spread over a wider, more diverse area, increasing survival chances. Keep in mind, the asteroid might have killed the dinosaurs, but it took hundreds of thousands of years for them to all die out, which is obviously plenty of time for intelligent problem solving to be a useful survival skill. Global scale events aren't generally things that happen quickly, a geological eye blink yes but that's still an awfully long time.

Re:How do bigger brains protect you.... (1)

na1led (1030470) | more than 2 years ago | (#40700163)

Eventually, brains grow so big they blow themselves up. Then the process starts over again.

What about midgets or dwarfs or pigmys? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40697425)

Considering that there are very small humans, is it possible that they too may out last the average height human?

Wouldn't their brains be considered large against the over all size of their human body?

Oblig... (1)

rocket rancher (447670) | more than 2 years ago | (#40699311)

I, for one, welcome our hydroenchephalitic dwarf overlords.

Re:Oblig... (1)

tobiah (308208) | more than 2 years ago | (#40700079)

heh

noah (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40699331)

the obvious example is when noah built his ark about 6000 years ago.

Neanderthals (3, Interesting)

tobiah (308208) | more than 2 years ago | (#40700503)

Neanderthals and a number of other extinct early hominids had brain sizes of 1600cc to 2200cc. Modern homo homo sapiens have a brain size of around 1200cc to 1500cc. Einstein's brain was around 1250cc. Sharks are the most enduring vertebrate on Earth, and have one of the lowest brain/body mass ratios. There's plenty of evidence to refute the premise.
Marris in her Nature article is implying that large brain/body ratios increase species survival likelyhood, based on comparing a "primitive" class of mammals to a "modern" one. But it could just as well be their digestive system was more adaptable, superior immune systems, etc. She started with a theoretical classification of living and extinct mammals (paleo and modern) and tried to support her theory that one has a survival advantage. This is trying to make the empirical data fit the theoretical model, and is crummy science. If one were actually interested in extinction, they should study different species and why they went extinct or not, and then build a theory based on those empirical results.

Re:Neanderthals (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40700729)

Obviously neural density, neural complexity and synaptic function are also factors too.

You could have a brain the size of a cat's and be smarter than einstein of the neuron density was high enough and the patterning was complex enough.

Re:Neanderthals (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40701915)

CC's are a measure of volume not mass, how does that address the theory? Also, you didn't mention body CC and/or mass, so its not even a ratio.

Also, the article is about the likelihood of extinction given the brain/body mass ratio. What's important is how a species reacts when selective pressures change. Just because sharks are an exception doesn't necessarily invalidate the theory, perhaps the selective pressures they operate under have just been relatively static compared to other species.

Dodge Extinction (1)

scasagrande (530384) | more than 2 years ago | (#40701749)

Great name for a new SUV.

Re:Dodge Extinction (1)

Saija (1114681) | more than 2 years ago | (#40704719)

good one. *Golf cap*

Jesus Christ! (1)

Sketchly (1354369) | more than 2 years ago | (#40704679)

This is 'science'? You got a big brain, you're smarter than a thing with a small brain. If you're smart, you dont get extinct. Hardly rocket science. What's the next 'scientific breakthrough'? "Hominids carrying AK47's are likely to prevail in a skirmish with unarmed donkeys"?

Title says (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40706331)

Cats.

(When I thought of Small, Big-Brained Animals).

But then again, Horses have been around for thousands of years... (big, small brained)

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