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Abstract

Larger brains may seem useful, but they need a lot of time and energy to grow. So why do bigger brains evolve in some animals but not in others? We looked at how different factors affect relative brain size across 1,176 bird species. The amount of energy parents invested in their young played a key role in the development and evolution of larger brains. Among the bird species we studied, parental provision was more important than ecological or social factors. We think that long-term parental care allowed larger brains to evolve. And not just among birds! The evolution of long-term parental care could also explain how the human brain grew so large.

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