Ontogenetic Allometry and Scaling

A Discussion Based on the Growth and Form of the Skull in African Apes
  • Brian T. Shea
Part of the Advances in Primatology book series (AIPR)


The two great syntheses that established the study of allometry were D’Arcy Thompson’s (1917, 1942, 1961) On Growth and Form and Julian Huxley’s (1932) Problems of Relative Growth. The bulk of Thompson’s volume dealt with the mechanical and physical factors underlying shape transformation. In his chapter entitled “The rate of growth, ” however, Thompson (1942, p. 79) stressed that “the form of an organism is determined by its rate of growth in various directions; hence rate of growth deserves to be studied as a necessary preliminary to the theoretical study of form.” Huxley’s (1932) work built on Thompson’s foundation through extensive empirical and theoretical investigations of relative, or differential, growth in organisms. Huxley showed that a simple power function, Y = bX k , could often describe correlated changes between growing parts (X and Y) of the body. He also analyzed ontogenetic allometry (relative growth, or heterogony, as Huxley labeled it) in terms of growth gradients, taxonomy, genetics, and evolutionary transformations. Huxley’s approach to the study of size and shape, there fore, was explicitly rooted in the analysis of growing form; we often term this growth allometry, in order to distinguish it from size allometry, which focuses on allometric changes in static adult series (Simpson, et al., 1960).


Specific Growth Rate Bottle Gourd Early Hominid Ontogenetic Trajectory Pygmy Chimpanzee 
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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1985

Authors and Affiliations

  • Brian T. Shea
    • 1
  1. 1.Departments of Anthropology and Cell Biology and AnatomyNorthwestern UniversityEvanstonUSA

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