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

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1122 Scopus citations

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

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

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