Metabolic scaling and the evolutionary dynamics of plant size, form, and diversity: Toward a synthesis of ecology, evolution, and paleontology

Brian J. Enquist, Bruce H. Tiffney, Karl J. Niklas

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

29 Scopus citations

Abstract

A central goal of evolutionary biology is the development of a general predictive theory that incorporates the various forces structuring biological diversity. In this article, we argue that a focus on allometry and metabolic scaling theory provides the basis to begin to mechanistically link and understand patterns observed at ecological and evolutionary timescales. To make our case, we draw on and review several recently published papers and present new analyses. We argue that together, this synthesized work supports the notion that selection has maximized the scaling of resource exchange surfaces (e.g., photosynthetic surface areas) yet simultaneously minimizes the scaling of transport times and resistances. As a result, the scaling of plant metabolism, in turn, has profoundly influenced the evolution and ecology of plant form, function, and diversity, probably since the inception of the chlorophytes. In particular, we discuss preliminary support for the notion that stabilizing selection for 3/4-power scaling of metabolism, in addition to competition for similar limiting resources, has led to the emergence of regular ecological patterns that have likely been prevalent throughout plant evolution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)729-749
Number of pages21
JournalInternational Journal of Plant Sciences
Volume168
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 1 2007
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Allometry
  • Community ecology
  • Growth rate
  • Paleontology
  • Size distributions
  • Species genus ratios

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Plant Science

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