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Trends Ecol Evol. 1997 Jun;12(6):235-9.

Why are organisms usually bigger in colder environments? Making sense of a life history puzzle.

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  • 1The Population Biology Research Group, School of Biological Sciences, Nicholson Building, University of Liverpool, PO Box 147, Liverpool, UK L69 3BX.


Environmental effects on body size are of widespread ecological and economic importance but our understanding of these effects has been obscured by an apparent paradox. Life history analysis suggests that it is adaptive for adults to emerge smaller if reared in conditions that slow down juvenile growth. However, whereas smaller adults emerge if growth is limited by food availability, the reverse is usually observed if growth is limited by temperature. The resolution of this apparent paradox may be that the response of adult size to temperature is adaptive, but is constrained by a trade-off that can be understood in terms of von Bertalanffy's classic theory of growth. Alternatively, the response may be the unavoidable consequence of a fundamental relationship between cell size and temperature.

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