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01 December 2017, 05:41 | Rodolfo Wallace
Which is smarter: a cat or a dog? New study has the answer to that long-standing question
We find they do not; carnivorans (cat, mongoose, dog, hyena, lion) share with non-primates, including artiodactyls (the typical prey of large carnivorans), roughly the same relationship between cortical mass and number of neurons, which suggests that carnivorans are subject to the same evolutionary scaling rules as other non-primate clades.
Because dog brains possess more neurons, scientists say they probably are capable of doing more complex and flexible things with their lives than cats can.
In the study, researchers compared different species of mammals to see how the number of neurons in their brains related to the size of their brains. On the other hand, large carnivoran species have high hunting costs and unreliable feeding patterns, which, given the high metabolic cost of brain neurons, might put them at risk of metabolic constraints regarding how many brain neurons they can afford, especially in the cerebral cortex.
Herculano-Houzel stated it's her belief that the number of neurons an animal has, particularly those housed within the cerebral cortex, speaks to the richness of their "internal mental state and their ability to predict what is about to happen in their environment based on past experience".
The study examined and compared the size of their brains. The bear is an extreme example. And bears, despite their big brains, have about the same number of neurons as cats do.
"I would bet money on a large dog over a cat any time", Herculano-Houzel said. As a outcome, the quantity of meat that large hunters can kill and consume and the intermittent nature of feeding appears to limit their brain development.
The researchers also learned that the domesticated animals in the test group (dogs, cats, ferrets) have similar brain to body weight ratios as the wild animals in the group. But it does mean that dogs were born with the potential for greater intellectual capability.
Study leader Professor Suzana Herculano-Houzel admitted she was a "dog person" but insisted that didn't impact her findings.
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