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Allometry and Metabolic Scaling in Ecology

  1. Kristina J Anderson-Teixeira1,
  2. Van M Savage2,
  3. Andrew P Allen3,
  4. James F Gillooly4

Published Online: 15 DEC 2009

DOI: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0021222

eLS

eLS

How to Cite

Anderson-Teixeira, K. J., Savage, V. M., Allen, A. P. and Gillooly, J. F. 2009. Allometry and Metabolic Scaling in Ecology. eLS. .

Author Information

  1. 1

    University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, Illinois, USA

  2. 2

    University of California at Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California, USA

  3. 3

    Macquarie University, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

  4. 4

    University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, USA

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 DEC 2009

Abstract

Body size affects the structure and function of all levels of biological organization. In ecological systems, body size strongly influences individuals (e.g. rates of individual growth, reproduction and mortality), populations (e.g. population growth rate, abundance and space use), communities (e.g. community abundance, food-web structure and interspecific interactions) and ecosystems (e.g. flux, storage and turnover of materials and energy). This is because individual metabolic rate – the rate at which an organism takes up and utilizes energy and materials – is largely controlled by body size. Here we review how body-size allometries at the individual level affect the structure and function of populations, communities and ecosystems. We use these results to identify and highlight exciting new applications of allometric theory in ecology.

Key concepts:

  • Body size sets an organism's metabolic rate and thereby controls its rates of growth, reproduction and mortality.

  • Body size is a key predictor of population growth rate, density and carrying capacity through its effects on individual-level rates of birth, death and resource use.

  • Body size influences community structure through its effects on individual-level resource demands, individual life histories and interspecific interactions.

  • Body size affects predator–prey dynamics and food-web interactions partially through its effects on metabolic rate.

  • The contribution of biota to the cycling of energy and materials in ecosystems is affected by species’ size distributions, and by the flux, storage and turnover of energy and elements in individuals which, in turn, is controlled by metabolic rate.

  • Allometric models provide a baseline for understanding the structure and function of complex ecological systems, and a means to quantitatively link different levels of biological organization.

Keywords:

  • allometry;
  • body size;
  • scaling;
  • metabolic theory of ecology;
  • energetics