, Volume 56, Issue 1, pp 104–108

Relationship among body mass, metabolic rate and the intrinsic rate of natural increase in mammals


  • Willard W. HennemannIII
    • Department of ZoologyUniversity of Florida

DOI: 10.1007/BF00378224

Cite this article as:
Hennemann, W.W. Oecologia (1983) 56: 104. doi:10.1007/BF00378224


The intrinsic rate of natural increase, rm, was calculated for 44 mammalian species using the Cole (1954) equation and life history data from the literature. Values of rm so calculated were plotted as log10rm versus log10 body mass revealing a linear relationship with a slope of-0.2622. The equation of the regression line fitting these data was then used to correct rm for body mass so that interspecific comparisons with respect to rm and basal metabolic rate could be made to determine if a positive relationship exists between these two parameters. Basal metabolic rate correlates positively with rm, and apparently is one of many factors operating in the evolution of rm. Implications of these conclusions with respect to food habits, resource limitations, and the possible existence of a trade-off between maintenance and reproduction in certain environments is discussed.

If one assumes that all mammals face environmental limits on the amount of energy available for maintenance, growth, and reproduction, it follows that any reduction in maintenance costs should provide more energy for growth and/or reproduction. The proposed existence of such a trade-off between maintenance and reproduction was a major premise upon which MacArthur and Wilson (1967) based their concept of “r- and K-selection”. Recently, however, McNab (1980) has suggested that for mammals that reproduce when food is not limiting, an increase in one maintenace cost, i.e. basal metabolic rate, may not detract from but may actually increase the intrinsic rate of natural increase, rm. Although this idea may seem counterintuitive, if one assumes an unlimited amount of energy, the factor limiting growth and reproduction will be the rate at which the energy can be used; a higher metabolic rate will mean a higher rate of biosynthesis, a faster growth rate, s shorter generation time, and hence a higher rm. Since some animal species appear not to be food-limited during their reproductive seasons (Armitage and Downhower 1974; Millar 1977; Rabenold 1979), natural selection may favor maximization of metabolic rate as a means of maximizing rm in these species. If these hypotheses concerning the correlation between basal metabolic rate and rm are correct, a comparison of mammalian species with respect to basal metabolic rate and rm should reveal a positive relationship between these two parameters.

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1983