Extreme Sexual Brain Size Dimorphism in Sticklebacks: A Consequence of the Cognitive Challenges of Sex and Parenting?
2012 (English)In: PLoS ONE, ISSN 1932-6203, Vol. 7, no 1, e30055Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Selection pressures that act differently on males and females produce numerous differences between the sexes in morphology and behaviour. However, apart from the controversial report that males have slightly heavier brains than females in humans, evidence for substantial sexual dimorphism in brain size is scarce. This apparent sexual uniformity is surprising given that sexually distinct selection pressures are ubiquitous and that brains are one of the most plastic vertebrate organs. Here we demonstrate the highest level of sexual brain size dimorphism ever reported in any vertebrate: male three-spined stickleback of two morphs in an Icelandic lake have 23% heavier brains than females. We suggest that this dramatic sexual size dimorphism is generated by the many cognitively demanding challenges that males are faced in this species, such as an elaborate courtship display, the construction of an ornate nest and a male-only parental care system. However, we consider also alternative explanations for smaller brains in females, such as life-history trade-offs. Our demonstration of unprecedented levels of sexual dimorphism in brain size in the three-spined stickleback implies that behavioural and life-history differences among the sexes can have strong effects also on neural development and proposes new fields of research for understanding brain evolution.
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2012. Vol. 7, no 1, e30055
IdentifiersURN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-116489DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0030055ISI: 000301457200030OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-116489DiVA: diva2:806568