Diversity in olfactory bulb size in birds reflects allometry, ecology and phylogeny

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Corfield, Jeremy R.
Price, Kasandra
Iwaniuk, Andrew N.
Gutierrez-Ibanez, Cristian I.
Birkhead, Tim R.
Wylie, Douglas R.
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Frontiers Media
The relative size of olfactory bulbs (OBs) is correlated with olfactory capabilities across vertebrates and is widely used to assess the relative importance of olfaction to a species’ ecology. In birds, variations in the relative size of OBs are correlated with some behaviors; however, the factors that have led to the high level of diversity seen in OB sizes across birds are still not well understood. In this study, we use the relative size of OBs as a neuroanatomical proxy for olfactory capabilities in135 species of birds, representing 21 orders. We examine the scaling of OBs with brain size across avian orders,determine likely ancestral states and test for correlations between OB sizes and habitat, ecology, and behavior. The size of avianOBs varied with the size of the brain and this allometric relationship was for the most part isometric, although species did deviate from this trend. Large OBs were characteristic of more basal species and in more recently derived species the OBs were small. Living and foraging in a semi-aquatic environment was the strongest variable driving the evolution of large OBs in birds; olfactionmay provide cues for navigation and foraging in this otherwise feature less environment. Some of the diversity in OB sizes was also undoubtedly due to differences in migratory behavior, foraging strategies and socia lstructure. In summary, relative OB size in birds reflect allometry, phylogeny and behavior in ways that parallel that of other vertebrate classes. This provides comparative evidence that supports recent experimental studies into avian olfaction and suggests that olfaction is an important sensory modality for all avian species.
Sherpa Romeo green journal: open access
Olfactory bulb , Comparative neuroanatomy , Olfaction , Sensory ecology , Avian ecology
Corfield, J. R., Price, K., Iwaniuk, A. N., Gutierrez-Ibanez, C., Birkhead, T., & Wylie, D. R. (2015). Diversity in olfactory bulb size in birds reflects allometry, ecology, and phylogeny. Frontiers in Neuroanatomy, 9, 102. doi:10.3389/fnana.2015.00102