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Updated neuronal scaling rules for the brains of Glires (Rodents/Lagomorphs)

Herculano-Houzel S, Ribeiro P, Campos L, Valotta da Silva A, Torres LB, Catania KC, Kaas JH (2011) Brain Behavior Evol 78, 302-314.

Brain size scales as different functions of its number of neu- rons across mammalian orders such as rodents, primates, and insectivores. In rodents, we have previously shown that, across a sample of 6 species, from mouse to capybara, the cerebral cortex, cerebellum and the remaining brain struc- tures increase in size faster than they gain neurons, with an accompanying decrease in neuronal density in these structures (Herculano-Houzel, 2012). Important remaining questions are whether such neuronal scaling rules within an order apply equally to all pertaining species, and whether they extend to closely related taxa. Here, we examine whether 4 other spe- cies of Rodentia, as well as the closely related rabbit (Lagomorpha), conform to the scaling rules identified previously for rodents. We report the updated neuronal scaling rules obtained for the average values of each species in a way that is directly comparable to the scaling rules that apply to primates (Gabi et al., BBE 2010), and ex- amine whether the scaling relationships are affected when phylogenetic relatedness in the dataset is accounted for. We have found that the brains of the spiny rat, squirrel, prairie dog and rabbit conform to the neuronal scaling rules that apply to the previous sample of rodents. The conformity to the previous rules of the new set of species, which includes the rabbit, suggests that the cellular scaling rules we have identified apply to rodents in general, and probably to Glires as a whole (rodents/lagomorphs), with one notable exception: the naked mole-rat brain is apparently an outlier, with only about half of the neurons expected from its brain size in its cerebral cortex and cerebellum.

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