Temperature effects on mass-scaling exponents in colonial animals: a manipulative test

Authors: Diego R Barneche, Craig R White and Dustin J Marshall

Published in: Ecology, volume 98, issue 1 (January 2017)


Body size and temperature are fundamental drivers of ecological processes because they determine metabolic rates at the individual level. Whether these drivers act independently on individual-level metabolic rates remains uncertain.

Most studies of intraspecic scaling of unitary organisms must rely on pre-existing differences in size to examine its relationship with metabolic rate, thereby potentially confounding size-correlated traits (e.g., age, nutrition) with size, which can affect metabolic rate.

Here, we use a size manipulation approach to test whether metabolic mass scaling and temperature dependence interact in four species (two phyla) of colonial marine invertebrates. Size manipulation in colonial organisms allows tests of how ecological processes (e.g., predation) affect individual physiology and consequently population- and community-level energy flux.

Body mass and temperature interacted in two species, with one species exhibiting decreased and the other increased mass-scaling exponents with increasing temperature.

The allometric scaling of metabolic rate that we observe in three species contrasts with the isometric scaling of ingestion rates observed in some colonial marine invertebrates.

Thus, we suggest that the often observed competitive superiority of colonial over unitary organisms may arise because the difference between energy intake and expenditure increases more strongly with size in colonial organisms.


Barneche DR, White CR, Marshall DJ (2016) Temperature effects on mass-scaling exponents in colonial animals: a manipulative test, Ecology, 98(1), 2017, pp. 103–111 PDF 534 KB doi:10.1002/ecy.1624