MRE Symonds, MA Weston, RW Robinson, P-J Guay (2014) Comparative analysis of classic brain component sizes in relation to flightiness in birds PLoS ONE 9: e91960 LINK
What’s it about?
The flightiness (the distance from which birds first respond to a threat by flying away), varies greatly between bird species. We had previously shown no link to flightiness of overall brain size (we had hypothesised that maybe more intelligent, brainier, birds might be less inclined to be flighty). Here we investigated in a bit more detail to see whether there was any link to specific brain component sizes (cerebellum, forebrain etc.). We didn’t find strong evidence for this, in contrast to a recent paper by Møller and Erritzoe (2014) in Journal of Evolutionary Biology. We speculate as to why our results are different
What’s the story behind it?
This was another paper in the collaboration with Patrick-Jean Guay at Victoria University and Michael Weston. Initially I was again a hired gun with this paper, however the comments at the review stage necessitated a really major re-analysis and ultimately rewrite of much of the manuscript which only I was in a position to do. So consequently my name bobbed to the top of the author list. We had no idea when we originally submitted the manuscript of the paper on almost exactly the same topic in J. Evol. Biol., which was a little disheartening – however, it was curious indeed that our results showed no clear patterns, whereas the other paper showed lovely clear patterns – especially since much of our data (it was a literature based study) were the same. Perhaps it was the phylogeny we used, or the comparative method, or the means of standardising the flight initiation distances experimentally. Perhaps, in the words of Ted Dexter, it was just an unusual alignment of Venus and Jupiter on the day I did the analysis.