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Bats: Small-sized but super smart
Bats: Small-sized but super smart
Christian Weber

For many researchers, one measure of intelligence is the ratio of brain size to body weight. But that would mean that the tiny mammal known as the shrew would be capable of great intellectual accomplishments, which it is not presently known for.

Why is this? A human brain weighs 1.3 to 1.5 kilos (2.9 to 3.3 pounds) – clearly smaller and lighter than a sperm whale’s (8.5 kilograms or 18.7 pounds) or an elephant’s (five kilograms or 11 pounds), but representing about 2% of body mass, which puts humans way ahead in the animal kingdom.

The shrew, on the other hand, has a relative brain weight of 4%, so why isn’t it smarter?

The answer is that the relationship between brain size and intelligence is more complicated than previously thought, shows a new study by researchers working with anthropologist Jeroen Smaers of University College London.

Their study, “Comparative analyses of evolutionary rates reveal different pathways to encephalization in bats, carnivorans, and primates,”was published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The scientists analyzed data on brain and body size of hundreds of modern and extinct bats, carnivores and primates, and were able to identify trends that played out over millions of years.

As they evolved, bats’ brains decreased much more slowly than their bodies, which meant a higher relative brain weight. Adaptive advantages could have been the reason for this, the researchers say. Smaller bodies are easier to maneuver, while the bats retained enough cognitive operating efficiency to navigate and hunt in obscure surroundings.

With primates, on the other hand, brain sizes decreased a little faster than body sizes.

According to Jeroen Smaers, changes in body size often occur independently of changes in brain size and vice versa. This means that relative brain weight provides only limited information about intelligence. Nobody should be expecting intellectual feats from shrews any time soon.

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Geopolitics

New Probe Finds Pro-Bolsonaro Fake News Dominated Social Media Through Campaign

Ahead of Brazil's national elections Sunday, the most interacted-with posts on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Telegram and WhatsApp contradict trustworthy information about the public’s voting intentions.

Jair Bolsonaro bogus claims perform well online

Cris Faga/ZUMA
Laura Scofield and Matheus Santino

SÂO PAULO — If you only got your news from social media, you might be mistaken for thinking that Jair Bolsonaro is leading the polls for Brazil’s upcoming presidential elections, which will take place this Sunday. Such a view flies in the face of what most of the polling institutes registered with the Superior Electoral Court indicate.

An exclusive investigation by the Brazilian investigative journalism agency Agência Pública has revealed how the most interacted-with and shared posts in Brazil on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Telegram and WhatsApp share data and polls that suggest victory is certain for the incumbent Bolsonaro, as well as propagating conspiracy theories based on false allegations that research institutes carrying out polling have been bribed by Bolsonaro’s main rival, former president Luís Inácio Lula da Silva, or by his party, the Workers’ Party.

Agência Pública’s reporters analyzed the most-shared posts containing the phrase “pesquisa eleitoral” [electoral polls] in the period between the official start of the campaigning period, on August 16, to September 6. The analysis revealed that the most interacted-with and shared posts on social media spread false information or predicted victory for Jair Bolsonaro.

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