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Proc Biol Sci. 2005 Nov 7;272(1578):2325-8.

Gigantism, temperature and metabolic rate in terrestrial poikilotherms.

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  • 1Russian Academy of Sciences, Theoretical Physics Division, Petersburg Nuclear Physics Institute, 188300 Gatchina, St Petersburg, Russia.


The mechanisms dictating upper limits to animal body size are not well understood. We have analysed body length data for the largest representatives of 24 taxa of terrestrial poikilotherms from tropical, temperate and polar environments. We find that poikilothermic giants on land become two-three times shorter per each 10 degrees of decrease in ambient temperature. We quantify that this diminution of maximum body size accurately compensates the drop of metabolic rate dictated by lower temperature. This supports the idea that the upper limit to body size within each taxon can be set by a temperature-independent critical minimum value of mass-specific metabolic rate, a fall below which is not compatible with successful biological performance.

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