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Coevolution of relative brain size and life expectancy in parrots

Cite this dataset

Smeele, Simeon Q. et al. (2022). Coevolution of relative brain size and life expectancy in parrots [Dataset]. Dryad.


Previous studies have demonstrated a correlation between longevity and brain size in a variety of taxa. Little research has been devoted to understanding this link in parrots; yet parrots are well-known for both their exceptionally long lives and cognitive complexity. We employed a large-scale comparative analysis that investigated the influence of brain size and life history variables on longevity in parrots. Specifically, we addressed two hypotheses for evolutionary drivers of longevity: the Cognitive Buffer Hypothesis, which proposes that increased cognitive abilities enable longer life spans, and the Expensive Brain Hypothesis, which holds that increases in life span are caused by prolonged developmental time of, and increased parental investment in, large-brained offspringWe estimated life expectancy from detailed zoo records for 133,818 individuals across 244 parrot species. Using a principled Bayesian approach that addresses data uncertainty and imputation of missing values, we found a consistent correlation between relative brain size and life expectancy in parrots. This correlation was best explained by a direct effect of relative brain size. Notably, we found no effects of developmental time, clutch size, or age at first reproduction. Our results suggest that selection for enhanced cognitive abilities in parrots have in turn promoted longer lifespans.


Data was collected from zoo records (Species360 ZIMS, with permission), museum specimens and from the litterture. Data has been processed with bespoke Bayesian models. Raw data is avaible when possible (some data is sensitive). Intermediate data and final results are available. Code is available. 

Usage notes

Readme's are included with instruction on how to reproduce the steps.