News Round-Up

Bigger brains helped squirrels move up in the world


Squirrels and other tree-dwelling rodents evolved to have bigger brains than their burrowing cousins, a study suggests.

This greater brain power has given them key abilities needed to thrive in woodland habitats, including better vision and motor skills, and improved head and eye movements, researchers say.

Scientists have shed light on how the brains of rodents – a diverse group that accounts for more than 40 per cent of all mammals – have changed since they evolved around 50 million years ago.

Few studies looking into factors affecting brain size in mammals have taken account of extinct species. Previous research was also not able to reveal changes to the size of key parts of the brain. MORE

Header image: Virtual brain casts of rodent species Cedromus wilsoni, Protosciurus cf. rachelae and Sciurus carolinensis. Credit: Ornella Bertrand.