Home Pharmacy practice Mathematical model of animal growth shows life is defined by biology and more

Mathematical model of animal growth shows life is defined by biology and more


Metabolic theory posits that physical constraints on energy absorption and allocation drive biological processes. This theory predicts broad ecological patterns such as the observed allometric scaling relationship between animals’ metabolic rate and body size.

Monash University scientists have challenged the conventional wisdom that physical constraints explain biological patterns. They created a new mathematical model of animal growth that describes how animals devote energy to growth and reproduction as they age and grow.

Lead author of the study, Professor Craig White of Monash University The School of Biological Sciences and the Center for Geometric Biology said: “Despite the fact that living organisms cannot break the laws of physics, evolution has shown itself to be extraordinarily adept at finding fault lines.”

“An unexplained problem in biology concerns the non-proportional (allometric) relationship between energy metabolism and size.”

“Finding that an animal’s metabolism can be explained without invoking physical constraints means we’ve been looking in the wrong places for answers about why this widespread pattern occurs.”

“We believe that physical constraints do not drive biology as much as we observe as previously assumed, and that evolution has a wider range of options than previously thought.”

During growth or evolution, a gain in size is often followed by a less than proportional increase in energy requirements, so that more giant creatures consume less food and expend less energy than smaller ones. .

For example, small mammals such as shrews may need to consume up to three times their body weight in food each day, while the most giant baleen whales eat only 5-30% of their body weight in krill. each day.

Professor White said, “Our study flies in the face of conventional wisdom that biological patterns such as allometric scaling occur due to physical constraints.”

“We have designed a mathematical model of animal growth that describes how animals shift their energy allocation from growth to reproduction as they grow in age and size, and show that lifetime reproduction is maximized when the metabolism changes disproportionately with size.”

“Many models presented since the beginning of the 19th century have used physical or geometric constraints to explain this pattern, but not ours. Simply put, classical theories held that animals have the metabolism they have because they have to; we find that they have the metabolism they have because it is the best.

“The study showed that allometric scaling does not have to result from physical or geometric limitations. Instead, natural selection, not physics, favors allometric scaling.

Journal reference:

  1. Craig R. White et al., Metabolic scaling is the product of life cycle optimization, Science (2022). DOI: 10.1126/science.abm7649

Mathematical model of animal growth shows that life is defined by biology

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