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The intraspecific scaling of metabolic rate with body mass in fishes depends on lifestyle and temperature


  • Shaun S. Killen,

    Corresponding author
    1. Station Méditerranéenne de l’Environnement Littoral, Institut des Sciences de l’Évolution de Montpellier, Université Montpellier II, Sète 34200, France
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  • David Atkinson,

    1. Population & Evolutionary Biology Division, School of Biological Sciences, Biosciences Building, University of Liverpool, Liverpool L69 7ZB, UK
    2. National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, Santa Barbara, CA 93101, USA
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  • Douglas S. Glazier

    1. Department of Biology, Juniata College, Huntingdon, PA 16652, USA
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*Correspondence and present address: Division of Environmental & Evolutionary Biology, Faculty of Biomedical & Life Sciences, Graham Kerr Building, University of Glasgow, Glasgow G12 8QQ, UK.


Ecology Letters (2010) 13: 184–193


Metabolic energy fuels all biological processes, and therefore theories that explain the scaling of metabolic rate with body mass potentially have great predictive power in ecology. A new model, that could improve this predictive power, postulates that the metabolic scaling exponent (b) varies between 2/3 and 1, and is inversely related to the elevation of the intraspecific scaling relationship (metabolic level, L), which in turn varies systematically among species in response to various ecological factors. We test these predictions by examining the effects of lifestyle, swimming mode and temperature on intraspecific scaling of resting metabolic rate among 89 species of teleost fish. As predicted, b decreased as L increased with temperature, and with shifts in lifestyle from bathyal and benthic to benthopelagic to pelagic. This effect of lifestyle on b may be related to varying amounts of energetically expensive tissues associated with different capacities for swimming during predator–prey interactions.