Metabolic Scaling in Animals: Methods, Empirical Results, and Theoretical Explanations
Published Online: 10 JAN 2014
Copyright © 2013 American Physiological Society. All rights reserved.
How to Cite
White, C. R. and Kearney, M. R. 2014. Metabolic Scaling in Animals: Methods, Empirical Results, and Theoretical Explanations. Comprehensive Physiology. 4:231–256.
- Published Online: 10 JAN 2014
Life on earth spans a size range of around 21 orders of magnitude across species and can span a range of more than 6 orders of magnitude within species of animal. The effect of size on physiology is, therefore, enormous and is typically expressed by how physiological phenomena scale with massb. When b ≠ 1 a trait does not vary in direct proportion to mass and is said to scale allometrically. The study of allometric scaling goes back to at least the time of Galileo Galilei, and published scaling relationships are now available for hundreds of traits. Here, the methods of scaling analysis are reviewed, using examples for a range of traits with an emphasis on those related to metabolism in animals. Where necessary, new relationships have been generated from published data using modern phylogenetically informed techniques. During recent decades one of the most controversial scaling relationships has been that between metabolic rate and body mass and a number of explanations have been proposed for the scaling of this trait. Examples of these mechanistic explanations for metabolic scaling are reviewed, and suggestions made for comparing between them. Finally, the conceptual links between metabolic scaling and ecological patterns are examined, emphasizing the distinction between (1) the hypothesis that size- and temperature-dependent variation among species and individuals in metabolic rate influences ecological processes at levels of organization from individuals to the biosphere and (2) mechanistic explanations for metabolic rate that may explain the size- and temperature-dependence of this trait. © 2014 American Physiological Society. Compr Physiol 4:231-256, 2014.