Avian cerebellar floccular fossa size is not a proxy for flying ability in birds

dc.contributor.authorWalsh, Stig A.
dc.contributor.authorIwaniuk, Andrew N.
dc.contributor.authorKnoll, Monja A.
dc.contributor.authorBourdon, Estelle
dc.contributor.authorBarrett, Paul M.
dc.contributor.authorMilner, Angela C.
dc.contributor.authorNudds, Robert L.
dc.contributor.authorAbel, Richard L.
dc.contributor.authorSterpaio, Patricia Dello
dc.descriptionSherpa Romeo green journal: open accessen_US
dc.description.abstractExtinct animal behavior has often been inferred from qualitative assessments of relative brain region size in fossil endocranial casts. For instance, flight capability in pterosaurs and early birds has been inferred from the relative size of the cerebellar flocculus, which in life protrudes from the lateral surface of the cerebellum. A primary role of the flocculus is to integrate sensory information about head rotation and translation to stabilize visual gaze via the vestibulo-occular reflex (VOR). Because gaze stabilization is a critical aspect of flight, some authors have suggested that the flocculus is enlarged in flying species. Whether this can be further extended to a floccular expansion in highly maneuverable flying species or floccular reduction in flightless species is unknown. Here, we used micro computed-tomography to reconstruct ‘‘virtual’’ endocranial casts of 60 extant bird species, to extract the same level of anatomical information offered by fossils. Volumes of the floccular fossa and entire brain cavity were measured and these values correlated with four indices of flying behavior. Although a weak positive relationship was found between floccular fossa size and brachial index, no significant relationship was found between floccular fossa size and any other flight mode classification. These findings could be the result of the bony endocranium inaccurately reflecting the size of the neural flocculus, but might also reflect the importance of the flocculus for all modes of locomotion in birds. We therefore conclude that the relative size of the flocculus of endocranial casts is an unreliable predictor of locomotor behavior in extinct birds, and probably also pterosaurs and non-avian dinosaurs.en_US
dc.identifier.citationWalsh, S. A., Iwaniuk, A. N., Knoll, M. A., Bourdon, E., Barrett, P. M., Milner, A. C., ... & Dello Sterpaio, P. (2013). Avian cerebellar floccular fossa size is not a proxy for flying ability in birds. PLoS ONE, 8(6), e67176. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0067176en_US
dc.publisherPublic Library of Scienceen_US
dc.publisher.departmentDepartment of Neuroscienceen_US
dc.publisher.facultyArts and Scienceen_US
dc.publisher.institutionNational Museums of Scotlanden_US
dc.publisher.institutionUniversity of Lethbridgeen_US
dc.publisher.institutionUniversity of the West of Scotlanden_US
dc.publisher.institutionNatural History Museum (London, England)en_US
dc.publisher.institutionUniversity of Manchesteren_US
dc.publisher.institutionImperial College, Londonen_US
dc.publisher.institutionUniversity of Abertay Dundeeen_US
dc.subjectCerebellar flocculusen_US
dc.subjectFloccular fossaen_US
dc.subjectBrain cavityen_US
dc.subjectFlying abilityen_US
dc.subjectExtinct birdsen_US
dc.titleAvian cerebellar floccular fossa size is not a proxy for flying ability in birdsen_US
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