Reduction of brain and sense organs in the fossil insular bovid Myotragus

Brain Behav Evol. 2004;63(3):125-40. doi: 10.1159/000076239. Epub 2004 Jan 15.


Our study of the fossil rupicaprine bovid Myotragus [Bate, 1909] from the Mediterranean island Majorca (Spain) provides evidence that this animal underwent significant changes (reduction) in the relative size of brain and sense organs after geographic isolation at the end of the Messinian Salinity Crisis (Miocene-Pliocene boundary, 5.2 Mya). The changes in the central nervous system of Myotragus parallel the pattern reported for domesticated animals, in which decrease in relative brain size is accompanied by a decrease in the relative size of their sense organs. We interpret the important size reduction of brain and sense organs in Myotragus as an adaptive strategy for more efficient energy use under the special environmental conditions of the insular ecosystem, characterized by absence of predation and limitation of trophic resources.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Domestic / anatomy & histology
  • Antelopes / anatomy & histology
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Brain / anatomy & histology*
  • Eye / anatomy & histology
  • Fossils*
  • Goats / anatomy & histology
  • Mediterranean Islands
  • Organ Size
  • Ruminants / anatomy & histology*
  • Sense Organs / anatomy & histology*