Shape shifting predicts ontogenetic changes in metabolic scaling in diverse aquatic invertebrates

Douglas S. Glazier, Andrew G. Hirst, D. Atkinson

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Metabolism fuels all biological activities, and thus understanding its variation is fundamentally important. Much of this variation is related to body size, which is commonly believed to follow a 3/4-power scaling law. However, during ontogeny, many kinds of animals and plants show marked shifts in metabolic scaling that deviate from 3/4-power scaling predicted by general models. Here, we show that in diverse aquatic invertebrates, ontogenetic shifts in the scaling of routine metabolic rate from near isometry (bR = scaling exponent approx. 1) to negative allometry (bR < 1), or the reverse, are associated with significant changes in body shape (indexed by bL = the scaling exponent of the relationship between body mass and body length). The observed inverse correlations between bR and bL are predicted by metabolic scaling theory that emphasizes resource/waste fluxes across external body surfaces, but contradict theory that emphasizes resource transport through internal networks. Geometric estimates of the scaling of surface area (SA) with body mass (bA) further show that ontogenetic shifts in bR and bA are positively correlated. These results support new metabolic scaling theory based on SA influences that may be applied to ontogenetic shifts in bR shown by many kinds of animals and plants
Original languageEnglish
Article number20142302
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B-Biological Sciences
Issue number1802
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 2016


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