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Animal Body Size

Linking Pattern and Process across Space, Time, and Taxonomic Group

Galileo wrote that “nature cannot produce a horse as large as twenty ordinary horses or a giant ten times taller than an ordinary man unless by miracle or by greatly altering the proportions of his limbs and especially of his bones”—a statement that wonderfully captures a long-standing scientific fascination with body size. Why are organisms the size that they are? And what determines their optimum size?          
This volume explores animal body size from a macroecological perspective, examining species, populations, and other large groups of animals in order to uncover the patterns and causal mechanisms of body size throughout time and across the globe. The chapters represent diverse scientific perspectives and are divided into two sections. The first includes chapters on insects, snails, birds, bats, and terrestrial mammals and discusses the body size patterns of these various organisms. The second examines some of the factors behind, and consequences of, body size patterns and includes chapters on community assembly, body mass distribution, life history, and the influence of flight on body size.

280 pages | 16 halftones, 26 line drawings, 24 tables | 6 x 9 | © 2013

Biological Sciences: Biology--Systematics, Ecology, Evolutionary Biology


“Although the contributors are numerous and the topic large, several threads running through this collection make it strongly cohesive. . . . Animal Body Size provides a landmark, or point of reference, in the progress toward understanding body size, its implications, and its consequences.”

V. Louise Roth, Duke University | BioScience

“It is not a comprehensive discussion of body size in animals but rather—as suggested by the title after the colon—focuses on why animals are the sizes that they are based on a comparative macroecological perspective. . . . The editors’ own chapter on size in mammals through space and time is an important contribution to the field. . . . Animal Body Size includes a range of papers that would likely be of interest to ecologists, paleontologists, and conservation biologists.”

Stephen R. Frost, University of Oregon | American Journal of Human Biology

“A good introduction to macroecology for newly entering students. . . . The editors . . . proactively direct the readers toward the way forward.”

Wolf Blanckenhorn, University of Zürich (Switzerland) | Quarterly Review of Biology

“This diverse collection provides a fascinating glimpse into a fundamental property of animal communities: the distribution of body sizes. With a stimulating integration of ecology and paleobiology that addresses the interplay of structure, function, the environment, and evolutionary history, this compilation is sure to appeal to a broad readership. By bringing to the forefront a suite of unanswered questions, the contributors’ efforts will motivate exciting new research into how communities are structured across space and through time.”

Rebecca Terry, Oregon State University

“Felisa A. Smith, S. Kathleen Lyons, and a cadre of leaders and pioneers in their field present a comprehensive yet imminently accessible synthesis that successfully argues that size matters in more ways than we could have possibly imagined.”

Link Olson, University of Alaska Fairbanks

Animal Body Size presents macroecological patterns in body size distributions for vertebrates and invertebrates and evaluations of ecological and evolutionary processes that shape body size distributions of clades and communities. Contributors emphasize patterns and processes at different taxonomic and spatial scales. Recurrent themes include life history analysis, metabolic scaling, allometry, ecogeographic and evolutionary trends in body size, ecological interactions, and biogeography. The strengths of this book lie in its broad vision of body size research, the intertwined ecological and evolutionary perspectives, and excellent bibliographies. The book will be useful as both a reference and a stimulus to new avenues of research.”

Catherine Badgley, University of Michigan

Table of Contents


Introduction: On Being the Right Size: The Importance of Size in Life History, Ecology and Evolution
Felisa A. Smith and S. Kathleen Lyons

PART I. Body Size Patterns across Space and Time

CHAPTER 1. Macroecological Patterns in Insect Body Size
Kevin J. Gaston and Steven L. Chown
CHAPTER 2. Latitudinal Variation of Body Size in Land Snail Populations and Communities
Jeffrey C. Nekola, Gary M. Barker, Robert A. D. Cameron, and Beata M. Pokryszko
CHAPTER 3. Geographic Variation in Body Size Distributions of Continental Avifauna
Brian A. Maurer
CHAPTER 4. Evolution of Body Size in Bats
Kamran Safi, Shai Meiri, and Kate E. Jones
CHAPTER 5. Macroecological Patterns of Body Size in Mammals across Time and Space
S. Kathleen Lyons and Felisa A. Smith

PART II. Mechanisms and Consequences Underlying Body Size Distributional Patterns

CHAPTER 6. Using Size Distributions to Understand the Role of Body Size In Mammalian Community Assembly
S. K. Morgan Ernest
CHAPTER 7. Processes Responsible for Patterns in Body Mass Distribution
Brian A. Maurer and Pablo A. Marquet
CHAPTER 8. The Influence of Flight on Patterns of Body Size Diversity and Heritability
Felisa A. Smith, S. Kathleen Lyons, Kate E. Jones, Brian A. Maurer, and James H. Brown
CHAPTER 9. On Body Size and Life History of Mammals
James H. Brown, Astrid Kodric-Brown, and Richard M. Sibly
Conclusion: The Way Forward
Felisa A. Smith and S. Kathleen Lyons

List of Contributors

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