Professor Felisa Smith of the University of New Mexico, an expert on the evolution of body size in animals, is often asked for her knowledge and opinion on the subject.She is co-editor of a book on animal size and has been tyrannosaurus rex to the imaginary sandworm in the movie sand dunes.
recently, perspective An article was published in an authoritative magazine chemistrySmith examined a new study titled Muscle strength anterior to the brain in post-Cretaceous extinct placental mammals and expressed his own opinion. Her article provides context and “a brief discussion of where this study fits within the larger scientific framework.”
In this study, we focused on mammals, which have the largest brain-to-body size ratio among vertebrates (encephalization), and found that this relationship emerged early in mammalian evolution, with brain expansion leading to new and diverse morphologies. I believed that I would pave the way. However, the research team instead found that body size increased first.It was only later that brain size began to increase. This has led to today’s highly cerebralized brains, including humans. ”
Smith’s essay The Road to a Bigger Brainto note the trade-offs associated with larger brain growth. brawn before brains research.
“Brains are energetically expensive, so if you have two animals of the same size, the animal with the larger brain will need more energy (food) to survive. As they are often restricted, this means that other activities are curtailed, especially reproduction, and indeed animals with relatively large brains relative to their bodies have lower reproductive rates,” Smith said. said.
In this study, researchers examined what happened immediately after the extinction of non-avian dinosaurs in K/Pg. Smith’s lab showed that mammalian body sizes diversified almost exponentially at this point, as they began to occupy every newly vacated niche.
“But the size of the brain also increased proportionately?” she continued. “That study showed otherwise. Essentially, mammals first got big and ‘stupid.’ When all of these body-size niches were filled, there was a strong selection for brain size that increased mammalian brain size. ”
“The articles I write are a little different because they asked me to write and they’re really reviews, not original research,” Smith explained.chemistry We often invite scientists who are familiar with the field to write essays on the topics published in the journal. In this case, the article talked about the evolution of brain and body size in mammals, and I was an expert on the latter, which is why they asked me to write it. went extinct, talking about the role of ecology in driving the early evolution of mammals. ”
Smith is the president-elect of the American Mammological Society, the oldest and largest mammalian society in the world. She is the fifth woman elected to the position and the first Hispanic woman. She is also currently President of the International Biogeographic Society. It is the leading association of scientists who study biodiversity and the geographical distribution of plants and animals around the world.
her book, Paleoecology of Mammals: Using the Past to Study the Presentwas released last year by Johns Hopkins University Press.