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Keywords:

  • allometry;
  • bird;
  • diet;
  • energetics;
  • phylogeny;
  • thermal ecology

Summary

1. We present a statistical analysis of the scaling of resting (basal) metabolic rate, BMR, with body mass, Bm and body temperature, Tb, in mammals.

2. Whilst the majority of the variance in ln BMR is explained by ln Bm, the Tb term is statistically significant. The best fit model was quadratic, indicating that the scaling of ln BMR with ln Bm varies with body size; the value of any scaling exponent estimated for a sample of mammals will therefore depend on the size distribution of species in the study. This effect can account for much of the variation in scaling exponents reported in the literature for mammals.

3. In all models, inclusion of Tb reduced the strength of scaling with ln Bm. The model including Tb suggests that birds and mammals have a similar underlying thermal dependence of BMR, equivalent to a Q10 of 2·9 across the range of Tb values 32–42 °C.

4. There was significant heterogeneity in both the mass scaling exponent and mean BMR across mammalian orders, with a tendency for orders dominated by larger taxa to have steeper scaling exponents. This heterogeneity was particularly marked across orders with smaller mean Bm and the taxonomic composition of the sample will thus also affect the observed scaling exponent. After correcting for the effects of ln Bm and Tb, Soricomorpha, Didelphimorphia and Artiodactyla had the highest BMR of those orders represented by more than 10 species in the data set.

5. Inclusion of Tb in the model removed the effect of diet category evident from a model in ln Bm alone and widely reported in the literature; this was caused by a strong interaction between diet category and Tb in mammals.

6. Inclusion of mean ambient temperature, Ta, in the model indicated a significant inverse relationship between ln BMR and Ta, complicated by an interaction between Ta and Tb. All other things being equal, a polar mammal living at −10 °C has a body temperature ∼2·7 °C warmer and a BMR higher by ∼40% than a tropical mammal of similar size living at 25 °C.