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      Cognitive performance is linked to group size and affects fitness in Australian magpies

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          Abstract

          The Social Intelligence Hypothesis argues that the demands of social life drive cognitive evolution 13. This idea receives support from comparative studies linking variation in group size or mating systems with cognitive and neuroanatomical differences across species 37, but findings are contradictory and contentious 810. To understand the cognitive consequences of sociality it is also important to investigate social variation within species. Here we show that in wild, cooperatively breeding Australian magpies, individuals living in larger groups show elevated cognitive performance, which in turn is linked to increased reproductive success. Individual performance was highly correlated across four cognitive tasks, hinting towards a “general intelligence factor” underlying cognitive performance. Repeated cognitive testing of juveniles at different ages showed that the group size – cognition correlation emerged in early life, suggesting that living in larger groups promotes cognitive development. Furthermore, we found a positive association between female task performance and three indicators of reproductive success, thus identifying a selective benefit of greater cognitive performance. Together, these results provide critical intraspecific evidence that sociality can shape cognitive development and evolution.

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          Most cited references32

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          A brief guide to model selection, multimodel inference and model averaging in behavioural ecology using Akaike’s information criterion

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            The evolution of self-control.

            Cognition presents evolutionary research with one of its greatest challenges. Cognitive evolution has been explained at the proximate level by shifts in absolute and relative brain volume and at the ultimate level by differences in social and dietary complexity. However, no study has integrated the experimental and phylogenetic approach at the scale required to rigorously test these explanations. Instead, previous research has largely relied on various measures of brain size as proxies for cognitive abilities. We experimentally evaluated these major evolutionary explanations by quantitatively comparing the cognitive performance of 567 individuals representing 36 species on two problem-solving tasks measuring self-control. Phylogenetic analysis revealed that absolute brain volume best predicted performance across species and accounted for considerably more variance than brain volume controlling for body mass. This result corroborates recent advances in evolutionary neurobiology and illustrates the cognitive consequences of cortical reorganization through increases in brain volume. Within primates, dietary breadth but not social group size was a strong predictor of species differences in self-control. Our results implicate robust evolutionary relationships between dietary breadth, absolute brain volume, and self-control. These findings provide a significant first step toward quantifying the primate cognitive phenome and explaining the process of cognitive evolution.
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              Is Open Access

              Genetics and intelligence differences: five special findings

              Intelligence is a core construct in differential psychology and behavioural genetics, and should be so in cognitive neuroscience. It is one of the best predictors of important life outcomes such as education, occupation, mental and physical health and illness, and mortality. Intelligence is one of the most heritable behavioural traits. Here, we highlight five genetic findings that are special to intelligence differences and that have important implications for its genetic architecture and for gene-hunting expeditions. (i) The heritability of intelligence increases from about 20% in infancy to perhaps 80% in later adulthood. (ii) Intelligence captures genetic effects on diverse cognitive and learning abilities, which correlate phenotypically about 0.30 on average but correlate genetically about 0.60 or higher. (iii) Assortative mating is greater for intelligence (spouse correlations ~0.40) than for other behavioural traits such as personality and psychopathology (~0.10) or physical traits such as height and weight (~0.20). Assortative mating pumps additive genetic variance into the population every generation, contributing to the high narrow heritability (additive genetic variance) of intelligence. (iv) Unlike psychiatric disorders, intelligence is normally distributed with a positive end of exceptional performance that is a model for ‘positive genetics'. (v) Intelligence is associated with education and social class and broadens the causal perspectives on how these three inter-correlated variables contribute to social mobility, and health, illness and mortality differences. These five findings arose primarily from twin studies. They are being confirmed by the first new quantitative genetic technique in a century—Genome-wide Complex Trait Analysis (GCTA)—which estimates genetic influence using genome-wide genotypes in large samples of unrelated individuals. Comparing GCTA results to the results of twin studies reveals important insights into the genetic architecture of intelligence that are relevant to attempts to narrow the ‘missing heritability' gap.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                0410462
                6011
                Nature
                Nature
                Nature
                0028-0836
                1476-4687
                22 January 2018
                07 February 2018
                15 February 2018
                07 August 2018
                : 554
                : 7692
                : 364-367
                Affiliations
                [1 ]Centre for Evolutionary Biology, School of Biological Sciences, University of Western Australia, 35 Stirling Highway, Crawley 6009, Australia
                [2 ]Centre for Ecology and Conservation, University of Exeter, Penryn Campus, Treliever Road, Penryn TR10 9FE, UK
                Author notes
                [* ] Correspondence and requests for materials should be addressed to B.J.A benjamin.ashton@ 123456research.uwa.edu.au ; amanda.ridley@ 123456uwa.edu.au ; alex.thornton@ 123456exeter.ac.uk
                Article
                EMS75649
                10.1038/nature25503
                5815499
                29414945
                dc93ba78-f5e5-4e82-8b56-63273a37c6b9

                Users may view, print, copy, and download text and data-mine the content in such documents, for the purposes of academic research, subject always to the full Conditions of use: http://www.nature.com/authors/editorial_policies/license.html#terms

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