The scaling and temperature dependence of vertebrate metabolism

Craig White, NF Phillips, RS Seymour

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

249 Citations (Scopus)


Body size and temperature are primary determinants of metabolic rate, and the standard metabolic rate (SMR) of animals ranging in size from unicells to mammals has been thought to be proportional to body mass (M) raised to the power of three-quarters for over 40 years. However, recent evidence from rigorously selected datasets suggests that this is not the case for birds and mammals. To determine whether the influence of body mass on the metabolic rate of vertebrates is indeed universal, we compiled SMR measurements for 938 species spanning six orders of magnitude variation in mass. When normalized to a common temperature of 38 degrees C, the SMR scaling exponents of fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals are significantly heterogeneous. This suggests both that there is no universal metabolic allometry and that models that attempt to explain only quarter-power scaling of metabolic rate are unlikely to succeed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)125-127
Number of pages3
JournalBiology Letters
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2006


  • allometry
  • body mass
  • metabolic rate
  • body temperature
  • scaling


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