Brain expansion: pure Darwinian explanations (Evolution)

by David Turell @, Wednesday, June 17, 2020, 00:38 (15 days ago) @ David Turell

Just for dhw: he will love this drive from environment approach:

https://phys.org/news/2020-06-savanna-like-landscapes-jet-fuel-brain.html

Ever wonder how land animals like humans evolved to become smarter than their aquatic ancestors? You can thank the ground you walk on.

Northwestern University researchers recently discovered that complex landscapes—dotted with trees, bushes, boulders and knolls—might have helped land-dwelling animals evolve higher intelligence than their aquatic ancestors.

Compared to the vast emptiness of open water, land is rife with obstacles and occlusions. By providing prey with spaces to hide and predators with cover for sneak attacks, the habitats possible on land may have helped give rise to planning strategies—rather than those based on habit—for many of those animals.

But the researchers found that planning did not give our ancestors the upper hand in all landscapes. The researchers' simulations show there is a Goldilocks level of barriers—not too few and not too many—to a predator's perception, in which the advantage of planning really shines. In simple landscapes like open ground or packed landscapes like dense jungle, there was no advantage.

"All animals—on land or in water—had the same amount of time to evolve, so why do land animals have most of the smarts?" asked Northwestern's Malcolm MacIver, who led the study. "Our work show

And, no, dolphins and whales do not fall into the category of less intelligent sea creatures. Both are land mammals that recently (evolutionarily speaking) returned to water.
(my bold)

***

"We speculated that moving onto land poured jet fuel on the evolution of the brain as it may have advantaged the hardest cognitive operation there is: Envisioning the future," MacIver said. "It could explain why we can go out for seafood, but seafood can't go out for us."

To test this hypothesis, MacIver and his team developed computational simulations to test the survival rates of prey being actively hunted by a predator under two different decision-making strategies: Habit-based (automatic, such as entering a password that you have memorized) and plan-based (imagining several scenarios and selecting the best one). The team created a simple, open world without visual barriers to simulate an aquatic world. Then, they added objects of varying densities to simulate land.

***

When patches of vegetation and topography are interspersed with wide open areas similar to a savanna, however, simulations showed that planning results in a huge survival payoff compared to habit-based movements. Because planning increases the chance of survival, evolution would have selected for the brain circuitry that allowed animals to imagine future scenarios, evaluate them and then enact one.

"With patchy landscapes, there is an interplay of transparent and opaque regions of space and long-range vision, which means that your movement can hide or reveal your presence to an adversary," MacIver said. "Terra firma becomes a chess board. With every movement, you have a chance to unfurl a strategy.

"Interestingly," he noted, "when we split off from life in the trees with chimpanzees nearly seven million years ago and quickly quadrupled in brain size, paleoecology studies point to our having invaded patchy landscapes, similar to those our study highlights, as giving the biggest payoff for strategic thinking."

Comment: a present just for dhw. In this conclusion we see the Darwin computer simulation garbage going in brings out a Darwinian garbage biased result out. Environment drives evolution and the individual organisms smartly know how to evolve themselves for the best advantage when it is all by chance, according to Darwinists. Note the bolded whale comment: if ocean environment is as detrimental as the author feels, why did the whales bother to become aquatic mammals??


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