Eco-energetic consequences of evolutionary shifts in body size

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

13 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

Cite this