Integrating brain, behaviour and phylogeny to understand the evolution of sensory systems in birds

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Abstract

© 2015 Wylie, Gutiérrez-ibáñez and Iwaniuk. The comparative anatomy of sensory systems has played a major role in developing theories and principles central to evolutionary neuroscience. This includes the central tenet of many comparative studies, the principle of proper mass, which states that the size of a neural structure reflects its processing capacity. The size of structures within the sensory system is not, however, the only salient variable in sensory evolution. Further, the evolution of the brain and behaviour are intimately tied to phylogenetic history, requiring studies to integrate neuroanatomy with behaviour and phylogeny to gain a more holistic view of brain evolution. Birds have proven to be a useful group for these studies because of widespread interest in their phylogenetic relationships and a wealth of information on the functional organization of most of their sensory pathways. In this review, we examine the principle of proper mass in relation differences in the sensory capabilities among birds. We discuss how neuroanatomy, behaviour and phylogeny can be integrated to understand the evolution of sensory systems in birds providing evidence from visual, auditory and somatosensory systems. We also consider the concept of a "trade-off", whereby one sensory system (or subpathway within a sensory system), may be expanded in size, at the expense of others, which are reduced in size.

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Wylie, D. R., Gutierrez-Ibanez, C., & Iwaniuk, A. N. (2015). Integrating brain, behaviour and phylogeny to understand the evolution of sensory systems in birds. Frontiers in Neuroscience. Frontiers Research Foundation. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnins.2015.00281

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