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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2010 Jul 20;107(29):12941-5. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1007783107. Epub 2010 Jun 29.

Shifts in metabolic scaling, production, and efficiency across major evolutionary transitions of life.

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Department of Biology, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM 87131, USA.


The diversification of life involved enormous increases in size and complexity. The evolutionary transitions from prokaryotes to unicellular eukaryotes to metazoans were accompanied by major innovations in metabolic design. Here we show that the scalings of metabolic rate, population growth rate, and production efficiency with body size have changed across the evolutionary transitions. Metabolic rate scales with body mass superlinearly in prokaryotes, linearly in protists, and sublinearly in metazoans, so Kleiber's 3/4 power scaling law does not apply universally across organisms. The scaling of maximum population growth rate shifts from positive in prokaryotes to negative in protists and metazoans, and the efficiency of production declines across these groups. Major changes in metabolic processes during the early evolution of life overcame existing constraints, exploited new opportunities, and imposed new constraints.

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