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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2018 Apr 17;115(16):4194-4199. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1712629115. Epub 2018 Mar 26.

Energetic tradeoffs control the size distribution of aquatic mammals.

Author information

1
Department of Geological Sciences, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305; wgearty@stanford.edu.
2
Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium, Chauvin, LA 70344.
3
Department of Geological Sciences, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305.

Abstract

Four extant lineages of mammals have invaded and diversified in the water: Sirenia, Cetacea, Pinnipedia, and Lutrinae. Most of these aquatic clades are larger bodied, on average, than their closest land-dwelling relatives, but the extent to which potential ecological, biomechanical, and physiological controls contributed to this pattern remains untested quantitatively. Here, we use previously published data on the body masses of 3,859 living and 2,999 fossil mammal species to examine the evolutionary trajectories of body size in aquatic mammals through both comparative phylogenetic analysis and examination of the fossil record. Both methods indicate that the evolution of an aquatic lifestyle is driving three of the four extant aquatic mammal clades toward a size attractor at ∼500 kg. The existence of this body size attractor and the relatively rapid selection toward, and limited deviation from, this attractor rule out most hypothesized drivers of size increase. These three independent body size increases and a shared aquatic optimum size are consistent with control by differences in the scaling of energetic intake and cost functions with body size between the terrestrial and aquatic realms. Under this energetic model, thermoregulatory costs constrain minimum size, whereas limitations on feeding efficiency constrain maximum size. The optimum size occurs at an intermediate value where thermoregulatory costs are low but feeding efficiency remains high. Rather than being released from size pressures, water-dwelling mammals are driven and confined to larger body sizes by the strict energetic demands of the aquatic medium.

KEYWORDS:

Mammalia; Ornstein–Uhlenbeck; body mass; metabolism; phylogenetic comparative methods

Comment in

PMID:
29581289
PMCID:
PMC5910812
DOI:
10.1073/pnas.1712629115
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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