The researchers examined why investing in a larger brain might provide an evolutionary advantage to compensate for the fact that brain mass is very expensive to develop and maintain.
"We have provided the first experimental proof that a large brain offers an evolutionary advantage," explained first author Alexander Kotrschal from the Stockholm University in Sweden.
They conducted an artificial selection experiment and successfully generated large- and small-brained guppies.
The researchers released 4,800 guppies from these selection lines into large semi-natural streams, which also contained a natural predator.
About half a year later, significantly more guppies with large brains had survived.
The researchers suggested that large-brained fish have an advantage that allows them to better evade predation.
"Our findings support the hypothesis that large brains provide a survival benefit under predation pressure," co-author Dustin Penn from the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna, Austria.
The findings appeared in the journal Ecology Letters.
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