The ‘cognitive buffer’ hypothesis predicts that the costs of relatively large brains are compensated for later in life by the increased benefits of large brains providing a higher chance of survival under changing environments through flexible behaviors in the animal kingdom. Thus, animals that live in a larger range (with a higher probability of environmental variation) are expected to have larger brains than those that live in a restricted geographic range. Here, to test the prediction of the ‘cognitive buffer’ hypothesis that larger brains should be expected to occur in species living in geographic ranges of larger size, we analyzed the relationship between the size of the geographic range and brain size and the size of various brain regions among 42 species of anurans using phylogenetic comparative methods. The results show that there is no correlation between relative brain size and size of the species’ geographic range when correcting for phylogenetic effects and body size. Our findings suggest that the effects of the cognitive buffer and the energetic constraints on brains result in non-significant variation in overall brain size. However, the geographic range is positively correlated with cerebellum size, but not with optic tecta, suggesting that species distributed in a wider geographic range do not exhibit larger optic tecta which would provide behavioral flexibility to allow for an early escape from potential predators and discovery of new food resources in unpredictable environments.
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