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Those Who Are Smarter Live Longer

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In a new study conducted by the German Primate Center (DPZ) – Leibniz Institute for Primate Research, it has been revealed that smarter animals live longer. This extensive study focused on grey mouse lemurs of Madagascar and demonstrated a clear link between cognitive abilities and survival rates. The research, recently published in Science Advances, uncovers a previously unexplored facet of evolution, showing how high cognitive functioning can indeed result in extended lifespans.

In nature, cognitive abilities differ not just among different species but also among individuals within the same species. The long-held presumption that smarter individuals live longer due to superior decision-making ability, especially regarding habitat, food selection, predator avoidance, and infant care, has been validated by this study. Over a period of several years, the German Primate Center administered cognition and personality tests on 198 grey mouse lemurs, tracking their survival while also measuring their weight.

The cognitive tests covered a range of abilities, from problem-solving to spatial memory and inhibitory control. The animals’ behaviour towards unknown objects and their level of exploratory behaviour were also assessed. This multifaceted approach enabled researchers to draw substantial correlations between cognitive skills, behaviour traits, and survival.

The study revealed that lemurs performing better in cognitive tests lived longer. Interestingly, it also found that heavier lemurs and those displaying more exploratory behaviour had a higher survival rate. “Being either smart or exhibiting good physical condition and exploratory behaviour can both lead to a longer lifespan,” said Claudia Fichtel, the lead author of the study. These findings suggest that different survival strategies can result in extended lifespans.

This fascinating study, conducted in Kirindy Forest, Madagascar, has helped clarify some of the processes underlying cognitive evolution. The researchers collected data between 2015 and 2019, monitoring the lemurs’ survival while testing their cognitive skills and behavioural traits. The subjects were caught using live traps baited with bananas, identified individually, and then released back to their habitats after testing.

The results of this extensive research give us a clearer picture of cognitive evolution and its effects on survival. The finding that survival was predicted by cognitive performance, body mass, and exploration could point to a speed-accuracy trade-off, with different strategies resulting in similar overall fitness levels.

The underlying processes of cognitive evolution have been a subject of interest for many researchers. But to understand how these abilities evolve, there must be a clear link to the individual’s fitness benefits. The team’s research at the German Primate Center provides some much-needed data, showing that smarter and more explorative lemurs live longer.

While the significance of these findings cannot be understated, more research needs to be conducted to further understand how cognitive abilities translate into behavioural strategies to find food or mating partners. This study takes us a step closer to deciphering the evolution of cognitive abilities. However, there are still many pieces of this evolutionary puzzle to be discovered. The hope is that future studies, built on this research, will further elucidate the mechanisms driving the evolution of cognition.

As for the grey mouse lemurs of Madagascar, they have been instrumental in deepening our understanding of the role cognition plays in survival. The information gleaned from this study can contribute to the conservation strategies for this and other primate species, potentially helping to increase their longevity.

In conclusion, the German Primate Center’s findings are a significant contribution to the ongoing quest to understand the complex mechanisms of evolution. They shine a spotlight on the correlation between cognitive abilities and survival rates, suggesting that being smart does pay off in the wild. As researchers continue to explore this area, we can expect to gain a more profound understanding of the evolution of cognition and its impacts on survival.

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