Eco-energetic consequences of evolutionary shifts in body size

Martino E. Malerba, Craig R. White, Dustin J. Marshall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Size imposes physiological and ecological constraints upon all organisms. Theory abounds on how energy flux covaries with body size, yet causal links are often elusive. As a more direct way to assess the role of size, we used artificial selection to evolve the phytoplankton species Dunaliella tertiolecta towards smaller and larger body sizes. Within 100 generations (c. 1 year), we generated a fourfold difference in cell volume among selected lineages. Large-selected populations produced four times the energy than small-selected populations of equivalent total biovolume, but at the cost of much higher volume-specific respiration. These differences in energy utilisation between large (more productive) and small (more energy-efficient) individuals were used to successfully predict ecological performance (r and K) across novel resource regimes. We show that body size determines the performance of a species by mediating its net energy flux, with worrying implications for current trends in size reduction and for global carbon cycles.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)54-62
Number of pages9
JournalEcology Letters
Volume21
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2018

Keywords

  • Allometry
  • artificial selection
  • evolutionary size shift
  • experimental evolution
  • geometric biology
  • metabolism
  • net energy flux
  • primary production
  • scaling

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