The fourth dimension of life: Fractal geometry and allometric scaling of organisms

Geoffrey B. West, James H. Brown, Brian Enquist

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1088 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Fractal-like networks effectively endow life with an additional fourth spatial dimension. This is the origin of quarter-power scaling that is so pervasive in biology. Organisms have evolved hierarchical branching networks that terminate in size-invariant units, such as capillaries, leaves, mitochondria, and oxidase molecules. Natural selection has tended to maximize both metabolic capacity, by maximizing the scaling of exchange surface areas, and internal efficiency, by minimizing the scaling of transport distances and times. These design principles are independent of detailed dynamics and explicit models and should apply to virtually all organisms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1677-1679
Number of pages3
JournalScience
Volume284
Issue number5420
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 4 1999
Externally publishedYes

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Fractals
Genetic Selection
Mitochondria
Oxidoreductases

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

Cite this

The fourth dimension of life : Fractal geometry and allometric scaling of organisms. / West, Geoffrey B.; Brown, James H.; Enquist, Brian.

In: Science, Vol. 284, No. 5420, 04.06.1999, p. 1677-1679.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

West, Geoffrey B. ; Brown, James H. ; Enquist, Brian. / The fourth dimension of life : Fractal geometry and allometric scaling of organisms. In: Science. 1999 ; Vol. 284, No. 5420. pp. 1677-1679.
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