Why are some species of plants and animals favored by natural selection? And why does natural selection not favor other species similarly?
According to a UC Riverside-led research team, the answer lies in the rate of metabolism of a species – how fast a species consumes energy, per unit mass, per unit time.
The researchers studied 3006 species, the largest number of species ever analyzed in a single study. The species list encompasses much of the range of biological diversity on Earth – from bacteria to elephants, and algae to sapling trees.
To the researchers' surprise, they found the mean metabolic rate of the species at rest fell on a narrow range of values – 0.3 to 9 Watts per kilogram.
"This narrow range is in dramatic contrast to the 20 orders of magnitude difference in the body mass of the species we studied," said Bai-Lian Li, a professor of ecology at UC Riverside, who led the study along with two colleagues. "At physiological rest, the biosphere appears to run, on average, predominantly at the optimal rate defined by this narrow range of values. This remarkable phenomenon is likely associated with the pervasive biochemical universality of living matter, and could provide us with clues to understanding how life is organized."
Study results appear in the Nov. 4 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
According to Li, the metabolic optimum explains the ubiquitous and seemingly unrelated features of life organization we see all around us – complex adaptations such as animal breathing and flat, green leaves.
"Organisms whose designs fit the physiological window have been favored by natural selection across all of life's major kingdoms," he said. "This observed, narrow range might therefore be considered as the preferred, optimal range for the functioning of living matter as a whole."
Unlike the genetic code and protein composition, metabolic rate cannot be inherited from a common ancestor. Rather, a particular range of metabolic rates is maintained by natural selection.
"Species had to invent diverse tricks to remain near the metabolic optimum, from which the progressive evolutionary increase in body size – from prokaryotes to largest vertebrates and plants – was continually taking them away," Li said.
He was joined in the study by co-leaders Anastassia M. Makarieva and Victor G. Gorshkov of the Russian Academy of Sciences, St. Petersburg. Their co-authors on the research paper are Steven L. Chown of Stellenbosch University, South Africa; Peter B. Reich of the University of Minnesota, St. Paul; and Valery M. Gavrilov of Moscow State University, Russia.
Iqbal Pittalwala | EurekAlert!
Smart Data Transformation – Surfing the Big Wave
02.12.2016 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Angewandte Informationstechnik FIT
Climate change could outpace EPA Lake Champlain protections
18.11.2016 | University of Vermont
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water
In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...
The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering
02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science
02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy