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Comp Biochem Physiol A Mol Integr Physiol. 2008 Sep;151(1):5-28. doi: 10.1016/j.cbpa.2008.05.008. Epub 2008 May 27.

An analysis of the factors that influence the level and scaling of mammalian BMR.

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Department of Zoology, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611, USA.


The factors influencing the basal rate of metabolism (BMR) in 639 species of mammals include body mass, food habits, climate, habitat, substrate, a restriction to islands or highlands, use of torpor, and type of reproduction. They collectively account for 98.8% of the variation in mammalian BMR, but often interact in complex ways. The factor with the greatest impact on BMR, as always, is body mass (accounting for 96.8% of its variation), the extent of its impact reflecting the 10(6.17)-fold range of mass in measured species. The attempt to derive mathematically the power relationship of BMR in mammals is complicated by the necessity to include all of the factors that influence BMR that are themselves correlated with body mass. BMR also correlates with taxonomic affiliation because many taxa are distinguished by their ecological and behavioral characteristics. Phylogeny, reflecting previous commitments, may influence BMR either through a restriction on the realized range of behaviors or by opening new behavioral and ecological opportunities. A new opportunity resulted from the evolution by eutherians of a type of reproduction that permitted species feeding on high quality resources to have high BMRs. These rates facilitated high rates of gas, nutrient, and waste exchange between a pregnant eutherian and her placental offspring. This pattern led to high rates of reproduction in some eutherians, a response denied all monotremes and marsupials, thereby permitting eutherians to occupy cold-temperate and polar environments and to dominate other mammals in all environments to which ecologically equivalent eutherians had access.

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