Effects of allometry, productivity and lifestyle on rates and limits of body size evolution

Jordan Okie, Alison G. Boyer, James H. Brown, Daniel P. Costa, S. K. Morgan Ernest, Alistair R. Evans, Mikael Fortelius, John L. Gittleman, Marcus J. Hamilton, Larisa E. Harding, Kari Lintulaakso, S. Kathleen Lyons, Juha J. Saarinen, Felisa A. Smith, Patrick R. Stephens, Jessica Theodor, Mark D. Uhen, Richard M. Sibly

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Body size affects nearly all aspects of organismal biology, so it is important to understand the constraints and dynamics of body size evolution. Despite empirical work on the macroevolution and macroecology of minimum and maximum size, there is little general quantitative theory on rates and limits of body size evolution. We present a general theory that integrates individual productivity, the lifestyle component of the slow-fast life-history continuum, and the allometric scaling of generation time to predict a clade's evolutionary rate and asymptotic maximum body size, and the shape of macroevolutionary trajectories during diversifying phases of size evolution.We evaluate this theory using data on the evolution of clade maximum body sizes in mammals during the Cenozoic. As predicted, clade evolutionary rates and asymptotic maximum sizes are larger in more productive clades (e.g. baleen whales), which represent the fast end of the slow-fast lifestyle continuum, and smaller in less productive clades (e.g. primates). The allometric scaling exponent for generation time fundamentally alters the shape of evolutionary trajectories, so allometric effects should be accounted for in models of phenotypic evolution and interpretations of macroevolutionary body size patterns. This work highlights the intimate interplay between the macroecological and macroevolutionary dynamics underlying the generation and maintenance of morphological diversity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20123087
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1764
StatePublished - 2013


  • Evolutionary rate
  • Macroecology
  • Mammal macroevolution
  • Maximum body size
  • Metabolic theory of ecology
  • Slow-fast life-history continuum

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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