Endocranial volume is variable and heritable, but not related to fitness, in a free-ranging primate

Abigail E. Colby, Clare M. Kimock, James P. Higham

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Large relative brain size is a defining characteristic of the order Primates. Arguably, this can be attributed to selection for behavioral aptitudes linked to a larger brain size. In order for selection of a trait to occur, the trait must vary, that variation must be heritable, and enhance fitness. In this study, we use a quantitative genetic approach to investigate the production and maintenance of variation in endocranial volume in a population of free-ranging rhesus macaques. We measured the endocranial volume and body mass proxies of 542 rhesus macaques from Cayo Santiago. We investigated variation in endocranial volume within and between sexes. Using a genetic pedigree, we estimated heritability of absolute and relative endocranial volume, and selection gradients of both traits as well as estimated body mass in the sample. Within this population, both absolute and relative endocranial volume display variation and sexual dimorphism. Both absolute and relative endocranial volume are highly heritable, but we found no evidence of selection on absolute or relative endocranial volume. These findings suggest that endocranial volume is not undergoing selection, or that we did not detect it because selection is neither linear nor quadratic, or that we lacked sufficient sample sizes to detect it.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Article number4235
    JournalScientific reports
    Issue number1
    StatePublished - Dec 2021

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • General


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