Phyletic size change and brain/body allometry: A consideration based on the African pongids and other primates

Brian T. Shea*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


A problematic aspect of brain/body allometry is the frequency of interspecific series which exhibit allometry coefficients of approximately 0.33. This coefficient is significantly lower than the 0.66 value which is usually taken to be the interspecific norm. A number of explanations have been forwarded to account for this finding. These include (1) intraspecificallometry explanations, (2) nonallometric explanations, and (3) Jerison's "extraneurons" hypothesis, among others. The African apes, which exhibit a lowered interspecific allometry coefficient, are used here to consider previous explanations. These are found to be inadequate in a number of ways, and an alternative explanation is proposed. This explanation is based on patterns of brain and body size change during ontogeny and phytogeny. It is argued that the interspecific allometry coefficient in African apes parallels the intraspecific one because similar ontogenetic modifications of body growth separate large and small forms along each curve. In both cases, body size differences are produced primarily by growth in later postnatal periods, during which little brain growth occurs. Data on body growth, neonatal scaling, and various lifehistory traits support this explanation. This work extends previous warnings that sizecorrected estimates of relative brain size may not correspond very closely to our understanding of the behavioral capacities of certain species in lineages characterized by rapid change in body size.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)33-62
Number of pages30
JournalInternational Journal of Primatology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 1983


  • African apes
  • brain/body allometry
  • intraspecific allometry
  • relative brain size

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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