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A Macroevolutionary Explanation for Energy Equivalence in the Scaling of Body Size and Population Density
The American Naturalist
Vol. 169, No. 5 (May 2007), pp. 621-631
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/513495
Page Count: 11
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Abstract: Across a wide array of animal species, mean population densities decline with species body mass such that the rate of energy use of local populations is approximately independent of body size. This “energetic equivalence” is particularly evident when ecological population densities are plotted across several or more orders of magnitude in body mass and is supported by a considerable body of evidence. Nevertheless, interpretation of the data has remained controversial, largely because of the difficulty of explaining the origin and maintenance of such a size‐abundance relationship in terms of purely ecological processes. Here I describe results of a simulation model suggesting that an extremely simple mechanism operating over evolutionary time can explain the major features of the empirical data. The model specifies only the size scaling of metabolism and a process where randomly chosen species evolve to take resource energy from other species. This process of energy exchange among particular species is distinct from a random walk of species abundances and creates a situation in which species populations using relatively low amounts of energy at any body size have an elevated extinction risk. Selective extinction of such species rapidly drives size‐abundance allometry in faunas toward approximate energetic equivalence and maintains it there.
© 2007 by The University of Chicago.