Brain volume of the newly-discovered species Rhynchocyon udzungwensis (Mammalia: Afrotheria: Macroscelidea): implications for encephalization in sengis

PLoS One. 2013;8(3):e58667. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0058667. Epub 2013 Mar 13.

Abstract

The Gray-faced Sengi (Rhynchocyon udzungwensis) is a newly-discovered species of sengi (elephant-shrew) and is the largest known extant representative of the order Macroscelidea. The discovery of R. udzungwensis provides an opportunity to investigate the scaling relationship between brain size and body size within Macroscelidea, and to compare this allometry among insectivorous species of Afrotheria and other eutherian insectivores. We performed a spin-echo magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan on a preserved adult specimen of R. udzungwensis using a 7-Tesla high-field MR imaging system. The brain was manually segmented and its volume was compiled into a dataset containing previously-published allometric data on 56 other species of insectivore-grade mammals including representatives of Afrotheria, Soricomorpha and Erinaceomorpha. Results of log-linear regression indicate that R. udzungwensis exhibits a brain size that is consistent with the allometric trend described by other members of its order. Inter-specific comparisons indicate that macroscelideans as a group have relatively large brains when compared with similarly-sized terrestrial mammals that also share a similar diet. This high degree of encephalization within sengis remains robust whether sengis are compared with closely-related insectivorous afrotheres, or with more-distantly-related insectivorous laurasiatheres.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Body Size*
  • Brain / anatomy & histology*
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Insectivora / anatomy & histology*
  • Insectivora / physiology
  • Organ Size
  • Phylogeny

Grant support

This research was funded by Midwestern University. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.