Biodiversity and body size are linked across metazoans

Craig R. McClain, Alison G. Boyer


Body size variation across the Metazoa is immense, encompassing 17 orders of magnitude in biovolume. Factors driving this extreme diversification in size and the consequences of size variation for biological processes remain poorly resolved. Species diversity is invoked as both a predictor and a result of size variation, and theory predicts a strong correlation between the two. However, evidence has been presented both supporting and contradicting such a relationship. Here, we use a new comprehensive dataset for maximum and minimum body sizes across all metazoan phyla to show that species diversity is strongly correlated with minimum size, maximum size and consequently intra-phylum variation. Similar patterns are also observed within birds and mammals. The observations point to several fundamental linkages between species diversification and body size variation through the evolution of animal life.



  • Present address: Division of Birds MRC-116, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC 20013, USA.

    • Received February 12, 2009.
    • Accepted February 26, 2009.
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