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Durham University

Department of Anthropology


Publication details for Professor Robert A. Barton

Barton, R.A. & Harvey, P.H. (2000). Mosaic Evolution of brain structure in mammals. Nature 405: 1055-1058.

Author(s) from Durham


The mammalian brain comprises a number of functionally distinct systems. It might therefore be expected that natural selection on particular behavioural capacities would have caused size
changes selectively, in the systems mediating those capacities. It has been claimed, however, that developmental constraints limited such mosaic evolution, causing co-ordinated size change
among individual brain components. Here we analyse comparative data to demonstrate that mosaic change has been an important factor in brain structure evolution. First, the neocortex
shows about a fivefold difference in volume between primates and insectivores even after accounting for its scaling relationship with
the rest of the brain. Second, brain structures with major anatomical and functional links evolved together independently of evolutionary change in other structures. This is true at the level of both basic brain subdivisions and more fine-grained functional systems. Hence, brain evolution in these groups involved complex relationships among individual brain components.