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The tremendous variation in brain size among vertebrates has long been thought to be related to differences in species’ metabolic rates. Species with higher metabolic rates can supply more energy to support the relatively high cost of brain tissue. And yet, while body temperature is known to be a major determinant of metabolic rate, the possible effects of temperature on brain size have scarcely been explored. Thus, here I explore the effects of temperature on brain size among diverse vertebrates (fishes,amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals). I find that, after controlling for body size,brain size increases exponentially with temperature in much the same way asmetabolic rate. These results suggest that temperature-dependent changes in aerobic capacity, which have long been known to affect physical performance, similarly affect brain size. The observed temperature-dependence of brain size may explain observed gradients in brain size among both ectotherms and endotherms across broad spatial and temporal scales.
Appendix 1: Data and sources used to analyze effects of body mass (g) and temperature (oC) on relative brain mass (% body mass) in vertebrates.