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Data from: Distributed cognition and social brains: reductions in mushroom body investment accompanied the origins of sociality in wasps (Hymenoptera: Vespidae)

Citation

O'Donnell, Sean et al. (2015), Data from: Distributed cognition and social brains: reductions in mushroom body investment accompanied the origins of sociality in wasps (Hymenoptera: Vespidae), Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.s2b5c

Abstract

The social brain hypothesis assumes the evolution of social behaviour changes animals' ecological environments, and predicts evolutionary shifts in social structure will be associated with changes in brain investment. Most social brain models to date assume social behaviour imposes additional cognitive challenges to animals, favouring the evolution of increased brain investment. Here, we present a modification of social brain models, which we term the distributed cognition hypothesis. Distributed cognition models assume group members can rely on social communication instead of individual cognition; these models predict reduced brain investment in social species. To test this hypothesis, we compared brain investment among 29 species of wasps (Vespidae family), including solitary species and social species with a wide range of social attributes (i.e. differences in colony size, mode of colony founding and degree of queen/worker caste differentiation). We compared species means of relative size of mushroom body (MB) calyces and the antennal to optic lobe ratio, as measures of brain investment in central processing and peripheral sensory processing, respectively. In support of distributed cognition predictions, and in contrast to patterns seen among vertebrates, MB investment decreased from solitary to social species. Among social species, differences in colony founding, colony size and caste differentiation were not associated with brain investment differences. Peripheral lobe investment did not covary with social structure. These patterns suggest the strongest changes in brain investment—a reduction in central processing brain regions—accompanied the evolutionary origins of eusociality in Vespidae.

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