While the human brain is clearly large relative to body size, less is known about the timing of brain and brain component expansion within primates and the relative magnitude of volumetric increases. Using Bayesian phylogenetic comparative methods and data for both extant and fossil species, we identified that a distinct shift in brain-body scaling occurred as hominins diverged from other primates, and again as humans and Neanderthals diverged from other hominins. Within hominins, we detected a pattern of directional and accelerating evolution towards larger brains, consistent with a positive feedback process in the evolution of the human brain. Contrary to widespread assumptions, we found that the human neocortex is not exceptionally large relative to other brain structures. Instead, our analyses revealed a single increase in relative neocortex volume at the origin of haplorrhines, and an increase in relative cerebellar volume in apes.
All data used in our analyses are provided as supplementary material.
- Charles L Nunn
The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.
- Jessica C. Thompson, YALE, United States
© 2019, Miller et al.
This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.
Many animals rely on complex signals that target multiple senses to attract mates and repel rivals. These multimodal displays can however also attract unintended receivers, which can be an important driver of signal complexity. Despite being taxonomically widespread, we often lack insight into how multimodal signals evolve from unimodal signals and in particular what roles unintended eavesdroppers play. Here, we assess whether the physical movements of parasite defense behavior increase the complexity and attractiveness of an acoustic sexual signal in the little torrent frog (Amolops torrentis). Calling males of this species often display limb movements in order to defend against blood-sucking parasites such as frog-biting midges that eavesdrop on their acoustic signal. Through mate choice tests we show that some of these midge-evoked movements influence female preference for acoustic signals. Our data suggest that midge-induced movements may be incorporated into a sexual display, targeting both hearing and vision in the intended receiver. Females may play an important role in incorporating these multiple components because they prefer signals which combine multiple modalities. Our results thus help to understand the relationship between natural and sexual selection pressure operating on signalers and how in turn this may influence multimodal signal evolution.
Studies of protein fitness landscapes reveal biophysical constraints guiding protein evolution and empower prediction of functional proteins. However, generalisation of these findings is limited due to scarceness of systematic data on fitness landscapes of proteins with a defined evolutionary relationship. We characterized the fitness peaks of four orthologous fluorescent proteins with a broad range of sequence divergence. While two of the four studied fitness peaks were sharp, the other two were considerably flatter, being almost entirely free of epistatic interactions. Mutationally robust proteins, characterized by a flat fitness peak, were not optimal templates for machine-learning-driven protein design – instead, predictions were more accurate for fragile proteins with epistatic landscapes. Our work paves insights for practical application of fitness landscape heterogeneity in protein engineering.