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Toward a physiological explanation of juvenile growth curves

Sibly, R. M. and Brown, J. H. (2020) Toward a physiological explanation of juvenile growth curves. Journal of Zoology, 311 (4). pp. 286-290. ISSN 1469-7998

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1111/jzo.12770


Juvenile growth curves are generally sigmoid in shape: Growth is initially nearly exponential, but it slows to near zero as the animal approaches maturity. The drop‐off in growth rate is puzzling because, everything else being equal, selection favors growing as fast as possible. Existing theory posits sublinear scaling of resource acquisition with juvenile body mass and linear scaling of the requirement for maintenance, so the difference, fuel for growth, decreases as the juvenile increases in size. Experimental evidence, however, suggests that maintenance metabolism increases sublinearly not linearly with size. Here, we develop a new theory consistent with the experimental evidence. Our theory is based on the plausible assumption that there is a trade‐off in the capacity of capillaries to supply growing and developed cells. As the proportion of non‐growing cells increases, they take up more macromolecules from the capillaries, leaving fewer to support growing cells. The predicted growth curves are realistic and similar to those of previous models (Bertalanffy, Gompertz, and Logistic) but have the advantage of being derived from a plausible physiological model. We hope that our focus on resource delivery in capillaries will encourage new experimental work to identify the detailed physiological basis of the trade‐off underlying juvenile growth curves.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Life Sciences > School of Biological Sciences > Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
ID Code:89304
Uncontrolled Keywords:Animal Science and Zoology, Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
Additional Information:Corrigendum published at


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