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Keywords:

  • Body mass;
  • independent contrasts;
  • phylogenetic generalized least squares;
  • scaling

The form of the relationship between the basal metabolic rate (BMR) and body mass (M) of mammals has been at issue for almost seven decades, with debate focusing on the value of the scaling exponent (b, where BMR ∝Mb) and the relative merits of b= 0.67 (geometric scaling) and b= 0.75 (quarter-power scaling). However, most analyses are not phylogenetically informed (PI) and therefore fail to account for the shared evolutionary history of the species they consider. Here, we reanalyze the most rigorously selected and comprehensive mammalian BMR dataset presently available, and investigate the effects of data selection and phylogenetic method (phylogenetic generalized least squares and independent contrasts) on estimation of the scaling exponent relating mammalian BMR to M. Contrary to the results of a non-PI analysis of these data, which found an exponent of 0.67–0.69, we find that most of the PI scaling exponents are significantly different from both 0.67 and 0.75. Similarly, the scaling exponents differ between lineages, and these exponents are also often different from 0.67 or 0.75. Thus, we conclude that no single value of b adequately characterizes the allometric relationship between body mass and BMR.