Causes and significance of variation in mammalian basal metabolism

David A. Raichlen, Adam D. Gordon, Magdalena N. Muchlinski, J. Josh Snodgrass

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


Mammalian basal metabolic rates (BMR) increase with body mass, whichs explains approximately 95% of the variation in BMR. However, at a given mass, there remains a large amount of variation in BMR. While many researchers suggest that the overall scaling of BMR with body mass is due to physiological constraints, variation at a given body mass may provide clues as to how selection acts on BMR. Here, we examine this variation in BMR in a broad sample of mammals and we test the hypothesis that, across mammals, body composition explains differences in BMR at a given body mass. Variation in BMR is strongly correlated with variation in muscle mass, and both of these variables are correlated with latitude and ambient temperature. These results suggest that selection alters BMR in response to thermoregulatory pressures, and that selection uses muscle mass as a means to generate this variation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)301-311
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Comparative Physiology B: Biochemical, Systemic, and Environmental Physiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Allometric scaling
  • Basal metabolic rate
  • Body mass
  • Energetics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Endocrinology
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Physiology
  • Biochemistry


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