NPR

What Gave Some Primates Bigger Brains? A Fruit-Filled Diet

A new study suggests that diet had a big influence in driving the evolution of brain size in primates. Monkeys who thrive on fruit have bigger brains than their plant eating neighbors.
Compared to leaf-eaters, primates who ate fruit had around 25 percent more brain tissue. Source: Anup Shah/Getty Images

Primate brains may have grown larger and more complex thanks to a fruit-filled diet, a new study suggests.

The researchers analyzed the brain sizes and diets of over 140 primate species spanning apes, monkeys, lemurs and lorises and found that those who munched on fruit instead of leaves had 25 percent more brain tissue, even when controlling for body size and species relatedness. Take spider monkeys and howler monkeys, for example. They both live in the rain forests of South America in groups of about 10. But where howler monkeys leisurely munch on trumpet tree leaves all day, spider monkeys

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