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Prey motility, egg size and female mating competition: brain size evolution in pipefishes and seahorses
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Biology, Department of Ecology and Genetics, Animal ecology.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-0144-2893
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(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Brain size varies greatly at all taxonomic levels. Feeding ecology, life history and sexual selection have been proposed as key components in generating the existing contemporary diversity in brain size across vertebrates. Analyses of brain size evolution have, however, been limited to lineages where males predominantly compete for mating and females choose mates. Here, we present the first original data set of brain sizes in pipefishes and seahorses (Syngnathidae). In this group, intense female mating competition occurs in many species (i.e. reversed sex-roles), and mating patterns include monogamy, polygynandry and polyandry. After controlling for the effect of shared ancestry and overall body size, relatively larger brains were positively correlated with relatively longer snout length, which is related to the propensity for feeding on motile and evasive prey items in Syngnathidae, and larger egg size. Furthermore, we found that females, on average, had 4.3% heavier brains than males and that polyandrous species tended to demonstrate female-favored brain size dimorphism. Our results suggest that adaptations for feeding on motile prey items, energetic constraints associated with production of large-brained juveniles and sexual selection in females are important factors in brain size evolution of pipefishes and seahorses.

Keyword [en]
Brain size evolution, Phylogenetic comparative methods, Syngnathidae
National Category
Evolutionary Biology
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-262073OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-262073DiVA: diva2:852173
Available from: 2015-09-08 Created: 2015-09-08 Last updated: 2015-10-12
In thesis
1. Thinking in water: Brain size evolution in Cichlidae and Syngnathidae
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Thinking in water: Brain size evolution in Cichlidae and Syngnathidae
2015 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Brain size varies greatly among vertebrates. It has been proposed that the diversity of brain size is produced and maintained through a balance of adaptations to different types and levels of cognitive ability and constraints for adaptive evolution. Phylogenetic comparative studies have made major contributions to our understanding of brain size evolution. However, previous studies have nearly exclusively focused on mammalian and avian taxa and almost no attempts have been made to investigate brain size evolution in ectothermic vertebrates.

In my thesis, I studied brain size evolution in two groups of fish with extreme diversity in ecology, morphology and life history, Cichlidae and Syngnathidae. Using phylogenetic comparative methods, I investigated four key questions in vertebrate brain size evolution; cognitive adaptation, sexual selection, phenotypic integration and energetic constraints.

I have demonstrated i) that phenotypic integration can link functionally unrelated traits, and this may constrain independent evolution of each part involved or promote concerted evolution of an integrated whole, ii) that brain-body static allometry constrains the direction of brain size evolution, even though the static-allometry showed ability to evolve, allowing evolution of relative brain size under allometric constraints, iii) that the energetic constraints of development and maintenance of brain tissue is an important factor in forming the diversity in brain size in cichlids and syngnathids, both at macroevolutionary and microevolutionary time scales, and iv) that adaptation for feeding and female mating competition may have played key roles in the adaptive evolution of brain size in pipefishes and seahorses. To conclude, my thesis shows the strong benefit of using fish as a model system to study brain size evolution with a phylogenetic comparative framework.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 2015. 50 p.
Digital Comprehensive Summaries of Uppsala Dissertations from the Faculty of Science and Technology, ISSN 1651-6214 ; 1286
brain evolution, phylogenetic comparative method, the expensive tissue hypothesis, cichlid, pipefish, seahorse
National Category
Evolutionary Biology
Research subject
Biology with specialization in Animal Ecology
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-262216 (URN)978-91-554-9333-2 (ISBN)
Public defence
2015-10-29, Zootissalen, Villavägen 9, tr.2, Uppsala, 10:15 (English)
Available from: 2015-10-07 Created: 2015-09-10 Last updated: 2015-10-12

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