Home range overlap as a driver of intelligence in primates.
Various socioecological factors have been suggested to influence cognitive capacity in primates, including challenges associated with foraging and dealing with the complexities of social life. Alexander [Alexander, 1989]. Evolution of the human psyche. In: Mellars P, Stringer C, editors. The human revolution: Behavioural and biological perspectives on the origins of modern humans. Princeton: Princeton University Press. p 455-513] proposed an integrative model for the evolution of human cognitive abilities and complex sociality that incorporates competition among coalitions of conspecifics (inter-group conflict) as a major selective pressure. However, one of the premises of this model, i.e., that when confronted with inter-group conflict selection should favor enhanced cognition, has remained empirically untested. Using a comparative approach on species data, I aimed to test the prediction that primate species (n = 104) that face greater inter-group conflict have higher cognitive abilities (indexed by endocranial volume). The degree of inter-group conflict/complexity was approximated via the variable home range overlap among groups. I found a significant relationship between home range overlap and endocranial volume, even after controlling for other predictor variables and covariates such as group size and body mass. I conclude that brain size evolution cannot be attributed exclusively to social factors such as group size, but likely reflects a variety of social and ecological determinants including inter-group conflict which poses cognitive demands on monitoring both the wider social milieu as well as spatial attributes of the habitat.