Vertebrate Metabolic Variation


A variety of factors contribute to the variation in energy expenditure of vertebrates, including those associated with anatomical and physiological organization as well as those reflecting differences in behaviour and conditions in the environment.

Keywords: ectotherms; endotherms; energetics; metabolic scope; metabolism; scaling

Figure 1.

Logarithm of the basal and field rates of metabolism in mammals, and standard and field rates of metabolism in lizards as a function of the logarithm of body mass.

Figure 2.

Body temperature and rate of metabolism as a function of environmental temperature in (a) ectotherms and (b) endotherms.


Further Reading

Bozinovic F (1992) Scaling basal and maximum basal metabolic rate in rodents and the aerobic capacity model for the evolution of endothermy. Physiological Zoology 65: 921–932.

Bryant DM and Tatner P (1991) Intraspecies variation in avian energy expenditures: correlates and constraints. Ibis 133: 236–245.

Castro G, Myers JP and Ricklefs RE (1992) Ecology and energetics of sanderlings migrating to four latitudes. Ecology 73: 833–844.

Daan S, Masman D and Groenewold A (1990) Avian basal metabolic rates: their association with body composition and energy expenditure in nature. American Journal of Physiology 259: R333–R340.

Drent RH and Daan S (1980) The prudent parent: energetic adjustments in avian breeding. Ardea 68: 225–252.

Hammond KA and Diamond J (1997) Maximal sustained energy budgets in humans and animals. Nature 386: 457–462.

Heusner AA (1991) Size and power in mammals. Journal of Experimental Biology 160: 25–54.

Koteja P (1987) On the relation between basal and maximal metabolic rate in mammals. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology 87A: 205–208.

Lindström Å and Kvist A (1995) Maximum energy intake rate is proportional to basal metabolic rate in passerine birds. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B 261: 337–343.

McDevitt RM and Speakman JR (1994) Central limits to sustainable metabolic rate have no role in cold acclimation of the short‐tailed field vole (Microtus agrestis). Physiological Zoology 67: 1117–1139.

McNab BK (1988a) Complications inherent in scaling basal rate of metabolism in mammals. Quarterly Review of Biology 63: 25–54.

McNab BK (1988b) Food habits and the basal rate of metabolism in birds. Oecologia 77: 343–349.

McNab BK (1992) A statistical analysis of mammalian rates of metabolism. Functional Ecology 6: 672–679.

McNab BK (1994a) Energy conservation and the evolution of flightlessness in birds. American Naturalist 144: 628–642.

McNab BK (1994b) Resource use and the survival of land and freshwater vertebrates on oceanic islands. American Naturalist 144: 643–660.

Nagy KA (1982) Energy requirements of free‐living lizards. In: Burghardt GM and Rand AS (eds) Iguanas of the World, pp. 49–59. Pine Ridge, NJ: Noyes.

Nagy KA (1987) Field metabolic rate and food requirement scaling in mammals and birds. Ecological Monographs 57: 111–128.

Nagy KA, Huey RB and Bennett AF (1984) Field energetics and foraging mode in Kalahari lacertid lizards. Ecology 65: 588–596.

Piersma T, Bruinzeel L, Drent R et al. (1996) Variability in basal metabolic rate of a long‐distance migrant shorebird (red knot, Calidris canutus) reflects shifts in organ sizes. Physiological Zoology 69: 191–217.

Pough FH (1980) The advantage of ectothermy for tetrapods. American Naturalist 115: 92–112.

Ricklefs RE, Konarzewski M and Daan S (1996) The relationship between basal metabolic rate and daily energy expenditure in birds and mammals. American Naturalist 147: 1047–1071.

Weiner J (1992) Physiological limits to sustainable energy budgets in birds and mammals: ecological implications. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 7: 384–388.

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How to Cite close
McNab, Brian K(Apr 2001) Vertebrate Metabolic Variation. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1038/npg.els.0001822]