Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Your Dog May Be Dumb, But It's Brain Has More Folds Than a Cat's

When it comes to the anatomy of the brain, the more folds it has, the better.  This is because the folds create more surface area on the brain, which in turn creates more area for neurons to be, which in turn allows for more storing of information.  A month or two ago in my Psychology class, we briefly touched upon the brains of other animals.  I particularly remember the brains of the domestic dog and the domestic cat.  Even though it often seems, especially in my house, that my cat is a whole lot smarter than my dog, a quick look at the brains of both pets indicates otherwise.  The cats brain is pretty smooth in comparison to the brain of the dog.  If you think about the major differences between these two carnivores, one obvious difference sticks out like a football player in a group of people going to see the Hobbit premiere this weekend who are fully decked out in Lord of the Rings gear and are all Hobbit-sized: dogs are social creatures, while cats have a much more limited social capacity.  This probably helps to explain why your cat will suddenly and randomly bite you after you have been so lovingly petting her in your lap while she is purring.  They just don't know how to handle that much attention!  They also don't have any built-in social protocol.  Think about a socially awkward child: the situation is similar, except for the child it is simply that they had a different upbringing and not usually a matter of brain size.  Or maybe cats are just insane.

Anyways, as you can see by comparing the brains of the cat (above) and the dog (below), the dog has many more folds in its brain.  This makes sense, because the social interaction component would need more brain area to successfully function.


So with this in mind, it would make sense that the brain of the lion would be larger than, say, the brain of the leopard, now, wouldn't it?  Since the lion is a social animal, you would definitely think that.  This doesn't seem to be the case, however.  I did a little digging and couldn't really come up with much, but if I had to hazard a guess I would say its because the lion has the pride to fall back upon, so they don't necessarily need to be smart ALL of the time.  Also, leopards are extremely acrobatic, and spend a lot of time in the trees.  I suspect that this might also affect things, but I guess I don't know!  When I attempted to research it, literally all I could find was a bunch of Internet people comparing operating systems (?) called "Lion" and "Snow Leopard." 

Next we are going to compare the brains of the wolf and the red fox.  As you can see below, here our "Social Interaction=Big Brain" hypothesis is sound.  Not only does the wolf have a lot more folds in its brain, you can also see that the canyons created by the folds themselves are much, much deeper, which creates more surface area. 

Finally, let us compare the brains of the polar bear and the black bear.  HOLY.  COW.  As you can quite clearly see in the pictures below, the polar bear has MUCH more surface area on its brain than the black bear.  Now if you think about it, the environment that the polar bear is forced to survive in is much harsher than that of the black bear.  IN OUR POST ABOUT THE POLAR BEAR, we featured a video IN WHICH THE POLAR BEARS ARE PLAYING WITH SPY CAMERAS.  As the narrator points out, the curiosity of the polar bears is their "best hope for the future."  In their ever-changing world of ice and snow, which is now unfortunately melting, this curiosity is often what helps them survive the long, lean summers after the melting of the pack-ice, as well as the long, dark and cold winters.  Hopefully this brain power will be enough to sustain their populations in the future!

1 comment:

  1. So what's important to note is that it is not JUST surface area and the amount of gyri that the brain has, but rather the surface area to body mass ratio. So, technically speaking, an animal could have less gyri than another animal, but still be "smarter" because the ratio of SA to body mass is greater in that animal.


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