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Keywords:

  • Metabolic rate;
  • Body size;
  • Jarman-Bell relationship;
  • Nutritional stress;
  • Feeding strategy;
  • Behavioral ecology;
  • Comparative physiology

Abstract

The “Kleiber relationship” describes the interspecific allometry between body size and metabolism. Like other allometric relationships, the Kleiber relationship not only summarizes scaling effects across species but also provides a standard by which species can be compared. One well-noted deviation from the Kleiber relationship is “hypometabolism”: metabolic rates below that expected for a given size. It has been suggested in the literature that hypometabolism may be 1) a primitive mammalian trait, 2) a thermoregulatory adaptation, 3) an adaptation to arboreal folivory, or 4) an adaptation to a diet that is deviant for body size. Data on primate physiology and behavior are used to evaluate these hypotheses. Only the deviant-diet hypothesis is supported by the data on nonhuman primates. Indeed, the Jarman-Bell relationship, which is the basis for this hypothesis, provides a more coherent explanation of correlated features of animal physiology and behavior than do the alternative models. Hypometabolism may be an energy-conserving adaptation to a variety of nutritional stresses. The present analysis underscores the point that metabolic rate, like foraging behavior, should be thought of as evolutionarily labile.