Brain growth, life history, and cognition in primate and human evolution.
This study investigates brain size ontogeny in a sample of seven anthropoid primate species (including humans) in order to evaluate longstanding ideas about the relations between brain size, brain ontogeny, life history, and cognition. First, this analysis tests the hypothesis that primate brain growth patterns vary across species. Second, the relations between the duration of the brain growth period and the duration of the pre-adult period are evaluated. Brain growth data, derived from a number of sources, are analyzed through parametric and nonparametric regressions. The results indicate that primates are characterized by significant variation in patterns of brain growth. In addition, the degree to which brain growth is allocated to either the pre- or the postnatal period varies substantially. Analyses of phylogenetically adjusted data show no correlation between the lengths of the brain growth period and the juvenile period, but there are correlations with other life-history variables. These results are explained in terms of maternal metabolic adaptations. Specifically, primates appear to present at least two major metabolic adaptations. In the first, brain growth occurs mainly during the prenatal period, reflecting heavy maternal investment. In the second, brain growth occupies large portions of the postnatal period. These differing patterns have important implications for maturation age, necessitating late maternal maturation in the first case and enabling relatively early maternal maturation in the second. Overall, these adaptations represent components of distinctive life-history adaptations, with potentially important implications for the evolution of primate cognition.