An Introduction to Fasting, Starvation, and Food Limitation

  • Marshall D. McCueEmail author


Thomas Malthus (An Essay on The Principle of Population, 1798) famously summarized the grim hysteresis between food limitation and the growth of human populations two decades before the word ‘Biology’ was ever used in the English language (Marston Bates’ The Forest and the Sea: a Look at the Economy of Nature and the Nature of Man, 1960). Over the subsequent two centuries biologists have documented the prevalence of food limitation in all types of animals confirming that humans are not particularly unique in this regard. Food limitation and its most dramatic outcome—death from starvation—are not new phenomena and date back to the dawn of heterotrophy. In fact a growing body of evidence suggests that deaths from starvation contributed to some of the greatest mass extinctions in Earth’s history. Despite both the antiquity and ubiquity of food limitation certain lineages of animals were apparently able to persist. Comparative physiologists are now charged with exploring the various adaptations that enable different types of animals to survive and often flourish in the face of food limitation.


Food Limitation Mass Extinction Civil Disobedience Comparative Physiologist Prolonged Fasting 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



I thank Dr. A.M. Garcia, Dr. K.E. McCue, and Dr. B. Pinshow for insightful comments on this chapter.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesSt. Mary’s UniversitySan AntonioUSA

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