1. Evolutionary Biology
  2. Genetics and Genomics
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Brain Size: Gene losses did not stop the evolution of big brains

  1. Cristian Cañestro  Is a corresponding author
  2. Vittoria Roncalli
  1. Universitat de Barcelona, Spain
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Cite this article as: eLife 2018;7:e41912 doi: 10.7554/eLife.41912
1 figure

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Gene losses and the evolution of big brains.

Phylogenetic tree showing the independent losses of the HMGCS2 gene in cetaceans (top grey region), fruit bats (middle grey region) and proboscideans (bottom grey region; the dashed line indicates that the mastodon is now extinct). The HMGCS2 gene codes for the enzyme that is responsible for the production of ketone bodies, which are used by many mammals as a source of energy for the brain when glucose is not available. The results of Jebb and Hiller are surprising in that they suggest that the evolution of big brains (represented by the brain cartoons) in the lineages leading to dolphins and elephants might have occurred without ketone bodies being available as an energy source.

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