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Causes and consequences of metabolic variation in animals Craig White   View Summary
3 October 2014

Associate Professor Craig White, the School of Biological Sciences, University of Queensland

Ass Prof Craig White
Ass Prof Craig White

Animals expend energy to process information, to forage for and digest food, to move, to grow and reproduce, and to generate or dissipate heat. Measures of metabolic rate integrate these processes, so it is reasonable to expect that variation in metabolic rate should be related to variation in fitness, but empirical demonstrations of such associations are surprisingly rare. Among- and within-species variation in body size and temperature are recognized as primary determinants of metabolic rate, but considerable variation remains once these factors are accounted for.

Understanding the causes and consequences of this variation in metabolic rate is a key problem facing the field of evolutionary physiology. I will examine the effects of body mass and temperature on metabolic rate, encompassing both intra- and inter-specific studies of a wide range of taxa, and will explore the possibility that the effects of size and temperature, and particularly their interaction, differ among taxa and among inter- and intra-specific studies. Then, using data drawn from phenotypic, quantitative genetic, and phylogenetic comparative studies, I will discuss the association between mass-independent variation in metabolic rate and fitness for a range of animals including lizards, cockroaches, and mammals, and will identify several key challenges facing tests of the hypothesis that metabolic rate is related to fitness.

Followed by lunch at the Grandstand- ($5 for students and $10 for staff), drinks at menu prices - RSVP for lunch to