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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2003 Apr 1;100(7):4046-9. Epub 2003 Mar 13.

Mammalian basal metabolic rate is proportional to body mass2/3.

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Department of Environmental Biology, University of Adelaide, Adelaide 5005, Australia.


The relationship between mammalian basal metabolic rate (BMR, ml of O(2) per h) and body mass (M, g) has been the subject of regular investigation for over a century. Typically, the relationship is expressed as an allometric equation of the form BMR = aM(b). The scaling exponent (b) is a point of contention throughout this body of literature, within which arguments for and against geometric (b = 2/3) and quarter-power (b = 3/4) scaling are made and rebutted. Recently, interest in the topic has been revived by published explanations for quarter-power scaling based on fractal nutrient supply networks and four-dimensional biology. Here, a new analysis of the allometry of mammalian BMR that accounts for variation associated with body temperature, digestive state, and phylogeny finds no support for a metabolic scaling exponent of 3/4. Data encompassing five orders of magnitude variation in M and featuring 619 species from 19 mammalian orders show that BMR proportional, variant M(2/3).

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