Can we make a human brain and body the size of a mouse’s while still retaining the same level, if not more intelligence?

Like how tech has evolved to be smaller but more efficient or how cars are more fuel efficient than they were years ago. I'm trying to make a story where you have mini humans who were created to be used for enjoyment like a pet, then they revolt. So if you make every part of the body more efficient, than could they be small?

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    $\begingroup$ What makes you think that our body is inefficient? Mother nature has a huge hatred for inefficiencies, and takes rid of them via that thing called natural selection. $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Commented Aug 31, 2019 at 13:57
  • $\begingroup$ do they originally that size? or they are human size until shrinking by some method? $\endgroup$
    – Li Jun
    Commented Aug 31, 2019 at 14:06
  • $\begingroup$ Land of the Giants, TV series, 1968–1970, created and produced by Irwin Allen. (The show is presented from the point of view of the tiny humans, hence "land of the giants". From the point of the view of the large humans -- who are actually the native inhabitants of the titular world -- it would be "an infestation of mouse-sized people".) $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Commented Aug 31, 2019 at 15:20
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    $\begingroup$ @L.Dutch well, the very existence of things like worldbuilding.SE suggests that mother nature gives quite a lot of leeway when it comes to inefficiencies in intelligent organisms... $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 31, 2019 at 18:30
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    $\begingroup$ Anyway, OP: scaling down isn't the same as making more efficient. Efficiency improvements won't help you if your cellular processes can't be made small enough... $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 31, 2019 at 18:31

1 Answer 1


There is an excellent answer to that question, written by J.B.S.Haldane as long ago as 1926 in his essay "On Being the Right Size". The Wikipedia entry has link to the full text of the essay. It is an interesting read, I highly recommend it.

He does not deal with limitations found in different sze brain (except in a short remark), but he does show that body plans of living organisms are tied quite closely to the size of the body. You can't alter the body size significantly, without having to adopt a radically different body plan.

For example, if a man were the size of a mouse:

But it is time that we pass to some of the advantages of size. One of the most obvious is that it enables one to keep warm. All warmblooded animals at rest lose the same amount of heat from a unit area of skin, for which purpose they need a food-supply proportional to their surface and not to their weight. Five thousand mice weigh as much as a man. Their combined surface and food or oxygen consumption are about seventeen times a man’s. In fact a mouse eats about one quarter its own weight of food every day, which is mainly used in keeping it warm.

So, a mouse-sized human would also need to spend inordinate amount of his day, well, eating. Does human digestion even support that? Not sure.

The human vision would be much worse than its current range as well, if the human was the size of mouse:

But if [the size of eye's rods and cones] were diminished and their number increased we should see no better. For it is impossible to form a definite image smaller than a wave-length of light. Hence a mouse’s eye is not a small-scale model of a human eye. Its rods and cones are not much smaller than ours, and therefore there are far fewer of them. A mouse could not distinguish one human face from another six feet away.

So, even without considering brain size implications, we can see that simply scaling humans (or indeed any living organisms) down (or up for that matter) is not a trivial thing at all. Even at the range humans occur naturally, very tall or very small people already usually have different proportions of the parts of their bodies, compared to the mean body size. Additionally, as far as I remember (don't have the quote on this) being very tall or very small carries it's own health problems as it is, and such people tend to have lower life expectancy.

Other portions of essay also discuss limitations of size in why a human couldn't be a giant (without changing the body plan a lot) or why insects can't be the size of a eg. a car.


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