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Slowly-developing primates definitely not dim-witted
Date:4/16/2008

maturity than body size, at least among primates," said van Schaik. "This study is also useful because it allows us to understand why humans develop so slowly and live so long -- we have no other choice!"

Other studies have linked primate brain size to life span and other factors, but those results have been contradictory, according to the new report. Previous studies were "polluted" by mixing data on captive and wild animals, van Schaik said. "Because development and survival are highly responsive to conditions, this variability made it impossible to do clean comparisons."

Their study was supported by the scientific research society Sigma Xi, the American Museum of Natural History and the Ruggles Gates Fund for Biological Anthropology in the United Kingdom.

Barrickman and her colleagues focused on primates living in the wild because "animals tend to grow up faster in captivity," she said. In the case of humans, they studied the Ache, a tropical forest culture in eastern Paraguay.

"Their food is exclusively wild food they forage from the forest," she said of the Ache. "And they don't have other things like modern birth control methods that you'd find in an industrial population like ours. My argument is that we're basically captive primates by comparison."

After analyzing available data on life history benchmarks such as length of pregnancy, years from birth to maturity, pre- and post-natal brain development and lifespan, the researchers found that humans and other big-brained species such as chimpanzees share certain survival traits.

It takes longer to grow a bigger brain, thus leaving immature offspring in need of extra care for longer periods. But larger brains also provide adult caretakers with "more complex foraging techniques, predator avoidance and social skills," the researchers wrote.

Greater skill allows adults to live longer, which in turn gives them longer reproductive lives. Humans have adde
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Contact: Monte Basgall
monte.basgall@duke.edu
919-681-8057
Duke University
Source:Eurekalert

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