A macrophysiological analysis of energetic constraints on geographic range size in mammals. Academic Article uri icon


  • Physiological processes are essential for understanding the distribution and abundance of organisms, and recently, with widespread attention to climate change, physiology has been ushered back to the forefront of ecological thinking. We present a macrophysiological analysis of the energetics of geographic range size using combined data on body size, basal metabolic rate (BMR), phylogeny and range properties for 574 species of mammals. We propose three mechanisms by which interspecific variation in BMR should relate positively to geographic range size: (i) Thermal Plasticity Hypothesis, (ii) Activity Levels/Dispersal Hypothesis, and (iii) Energy Constraint Hypothesis. Although each mechanism predicts a positive correlation between BMR and range size, they can be further distinguished based on the shape of the relationship they predict. We found evidence for the predicted positive relationship in two dimensions of energetics: (i) the absolute, mass-dependent dimension (BMR) and (ii) the relative, mass-independent dimension (MIBMR). The shapes of both relationships were similar and most consistent with that expected from the Energy Constraint Hypothesis, which was proposed previously to explain the classic macroecological relationship between range size and body size in mammals and birds. The fact that this pattern holds in the MIBMR dimension indicates that species with supra-allometric metabolic rates require among the largest ranges, above and beyond the increasing energy demands that accrue as an allometric consequence of large body size. The relationship is most evident at high latitudes north of the Tropics, where large ranges and elevated MIBMR are most common. Our results suggest that species that are most vulnerable to extinction from range size reductions are both large-bodied and have elevated MIBMR, but also, that smaller species with elevated MIBMR are at heightened risk. We also provide insights into the global latitudinal trends in range size and MIBMR and more general issues of phylogenetic and geographic scale.

published proceedings

  • PLoS One

altmetric score

  • 2.25

author list (cited authors)

  • Agosta, S. J., Bernardo, J., Ceballos, G., & Steele, M. A.

citation count

  • 18

editor list (cited editors)

  • Munn, A. J.

publication date

  • January 2013