By Wil Roebroeks, Wil Roebroek
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Extra info for Guts and Brains: An Integrative Approach to the Hominin Record
Guts & Brains 28-03-2007 15:12 Pagina 51 Mortality = (s) duce energy available for growth and reproduction. Similar observations can be made regarding disease and temperature. The extrinsic mortality concept has been convenient, because it has provided a causal agent for examining other life history traits, such as age of first reproduction and rates of aging. However, this has prevented the examination of how mortality rates themselves evolve by natural selection. Since all mortality is, to some extent, intrinsic or “endogenous”, a more useful approach is to examine the functional relationship between mortality and the effort allocated to reducing it (see Figure 2).
This has the effect of increasing the expected lifespan. Our theory is that brain size and longevity co-evolve for the following reasons. Ecological conditions favouring large brains also select for greater endogenous investments in staying alive. As the stock of knowledge and functional abilities embodied in the brain grow with age, so too does the value of the capital investment. This favours greater investments in health and mortality avoidance. In addition, holding the value of the brain constant, ecological conditions that lower mortality select for increased investment in brain capital for similar reasons; an increased probability of reaching older ages increases the value of investments whose rewards are realized at older ages.
Leonard et al. Guts & Brains 28-03-2007 15:12 Pagina 39 that the increased energy demands of the human brain were accommodated by the reduction in size of the GI tract. Since the intestines are similar to the brain in having very high energy demands (so-called “expensive tissues”), the reduction in size of the large intestines of humans, relative to other primates, is thought to provide the necessary energy “savings” required to support elevated brain metabolism. Aiello and Wheeler (1995) have shown that among a sample of 18 primate species (including humans), increased brain size was associated with reduced gut size.