New publication: Scaling of Morphological Characters across Trait Type, Sex, and Environment A Meta-analysis of Static Allometries

Kjetil Lysne Voje in The American Naturalist


Biological diversity is, to a large extent, a matter of variation in size. Proportional (isometric) scaling, where large and small individuals are magnified versions of each other, is often assumed to be the most common way morphological traits scale relative to overall size within species. However, the many traits showing nonproportional (allometric) scaling have motivated some of the most discussed hypotheses on scaling relationships in biology, like the positive allometry hypothesis for secondary sexual traits and the negative allometry hypothesis for genitals. I evaluate more than 3,200 allometric parameters from the literature and find that negative allometry, not isometry, is the expected scaling relationship of morphological traits within species. Slopes of secondary sexual traits are more often steeper compared with other traits, but slopes larger than unity are also common for traits not under sexual selection. The steepness of the allometric slope is accordingly a weak predictor of past and present patterns of selection. Scaling of genitals varies across taxonomic groups, but negative allometry of genitals in insects and spiders is a consistent pattern. Finally, I find indications that terrestrial organisms may have a different scaling of morphological traits overall compared with aquatic species.

January 2016, Vol. 187, No. 1 (January 2016), pp. 89-98.

Tags: The American Naturalist;
Published Jan. 15, 2016 11:47 AM - Last modified Oct. 14, 2016 11:01 AM