Seasonal differences in the behavior of Common Shrews

Rado Seminar by Angela Litz

  • Date: Sep 9, 2022
  • Time: 10:30 AM - 11:30 AM (Local Time Germany)
  • Speaker: Angela Litz
  • Host: Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior
Seasonal differences in the behavior of Common Shrews
The brain is one of the most complex organs when it comes to function and structure. Once brain structure and volume have fully developed in a mature individual, they usually stay constant. However, both show high interspecific variability. Further, cognitive abilities vary between, but also within species. Thus, studying the relationship between cognitive abilities and brain volume is challenging. Common shrews (Sorex araneus) offer a unique opportunity to investigate the link between changes in brain size and cognitive abilities in the same organism because they show a special form of phenotypic plasticity, named Dehnel’s Phenomenon. When shrews reach adult size in summer, brain volume is largest, but then decreases in winter and partially regrows in spring. Several major organs show a similar pattern. Here we used behavioral tests to investigate the cognitive abilities of common shrews at three different stages of Dehnel’s Phenomenon. We found that cognitive abilities followed the changes in brain volume, with the lowest cognitive performance in winter, the stage of smallest brain size. This confirms a link between brain size and cognitive abilities.
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