Basal metabolic rate in carnivores is associated with diet after controlling for phylogeny

Physiol Biochem Zool. Nov-Dec 2005;78(6):1039-56. doi: 10.1086/432852. Epub 2005 Sep 22.


Studies of basal metabolic rate (BMR), the minimum metabolic rate of postabsorptive, inactive endotherms while in their rest phase and thermal neutral zone, have contributed significantly to our understanding of animal energetics. Besides body mass, the main determinant of BMR, researchers have invoked diet and phylogenetic history as important factors that influence BMR, although their relative importance has been controversial. For 58 species within the Carnivora, we tested the hypothesis that BMR is correlated with home range size, a proxy for level of activity, and diet, using conventional least squares regression (CLSR) and regression based on phylogenetic independent contrasts (PIC). Results showed that BMR of Carnivora was positively correlated with home range size after controlling for body mass, regardless of the statistical method employed. We also found that diet and mass-adjusted home range size were correlated. When we simultaneously tested the effect of diet and mass-adjusted home range on mass-adjusted BMR, home range size was insignificant because of its colinearity with diet. Then we eliminated home range size from our model, and diet proved to be significant with both CLSR and PIC. We concluded that species that eat meat have larger home ranges and higher BMR than species that eat vegetable matter. To advance our understanding of the potential mechanisms that might explain our results, we propose the "muscle performance hypothesis," which suggests that selection for different muscle fiber types can account for the differences in BMR observed between meat eaters and vegetarian species within the Carnivora.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Basal Metabolism / physiology*
  • Body Size
  • Carnivora / genetics
  • Carnivora / physiology*
  • Diet*
  • Homing Behavior
  • Models, Biological*
  • Phylogeny*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Species Specificity