, Volume 15, Issue 1, pp 5-21

Playing for keeps

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The hypothesis that play behavior is more prevalent in larger-brained animals has recently been challenged. It may be, for example, that only certain brain structures are related to play. Here, we analyze social play behavior with regards to the cerebellum: a structure strongly implicated in motor-development, and possibly also in cognitive skills. We present an evolutionary analysis of social play and the cerebellum, using a phylogenetic comparative method. Social play frequency and relative cerebellum size are positively correlated. Hence, there appears to be a link between the evolutionary elaboration of social play and the cerebellum.

Kerrie Lewis recently received her Ph.D. from the University of Durham, U.K., under the supervision of Robert Barton. She is currently working in a postdoctoral position at Duke University, conducting research into primate numerical cognition. Robert Barton is a Reader in Evolutionary Anthropology at the University of Durham. His interests comprise primate behavior and brain evolution. Both authors are keen advocates for the use of the comparative method in evolutionary studies.