Mammalian Biology

, Volume 79, Issue 4, pp 230–239 | Cite as

Comparative quantitative investigations on brains of wild cavies (Cavia aperea) and guinea pigs (Cavia aperea f. porcellus). A contribution to size changes of CNS structures due to domestication

  • Dieter C. T. KruskaEmail author
Original Investigation


Intraspecific allometric calculations of the brain to body size relation revealed distinct differences between 127 (67; 60) ancestral wild cavies and 82 (37; 45) guinea pigs, their domesticated relatives. The dependency of both measures from one another remained the same in both animal groups but the brains of guinea pigs were by 14.22% smaller at any net body weight. Consistent with results in other species the domestication of Cavia aperea is also characterized by a decrease of brain size. Fresh tissue sizes of the five brain parts medulla oblongata, cerebellum, mesencephalon, diencephalon and telencephalon were determined for 6 cavies and 6 guinea pigs by the serial section method. Additionally the sizes of 16 endbrain structures and those of the optic tract, the lateral geniculate body and the cochlear nucleus were measured. Different decrease values resulted for all these structures concomitant with domestication as was calculated from the amount of total brain size decrease and average relative structure values in the wild as well as the domesticated brain. The size decrease of the entire telencephalon (-13.7%) was within the range of the mean overall reduction as similarly was the case for the total neocortex (-10.7%) whereas the total allocortex (-20.9%) clearly was more strongly affected. The size decrease of the olfactory bulb (-41.9%) was extreme and clearly higher than found for the secondary olfactory structures (around -11%). The primary nuclei of other sensory systems (vision, audition) were decreased to less extent (lateral geniculate: -18.1%; cochlear nucleus: -12.6%). Mass decreases of pure white matter parts were nearly twice as high in contrast to associated grey matter parts (neocortex white versus grey matter; tractus opticus versus lateral geniculate body). The relatively great decrease values found for the limbic structures hippocampus (-26.9%) and schizocortex(-25.9%) are especially notable since they are in good conformity with domestication effects in other mammalian species. The findings of this study are discussed with regard to results of similar investigations on wild and domesticated gerbils (Meriones unguiculatus), the encephalization of the wild form, the special and species-specific mode and duration of domestication and in connection with certain behavioral changes as resulted from comparative investigations in ethology, socio-biology, endocrinology and general physiology.


Cavia aperea Domestication Allometry Brain structure volumes Brain-behavior correlation 


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© Deutsche Gesellschaft für Säugetierkunde 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department Special ZoologyZoological Institute, Christian-Albrechts-University at KielOlshausenstrasseGermany

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