Revisiting a model of ontogenetic growth: estimating model parameters from theory and data

Am Nat. 2008 May;171(5):632-45. doi: 10.1086/587073.


The ontogenetic growth model (OGM) of West et al. provides a general description of how metabolic energy is allocated between production of new biomass and maintenance of existing biomass during ontogeny. Here, we reexamine the OGM, make some minor modifications and corrections, and further evaluate its ability to account for empirical variation on rates of metabolism and biomass in vertebrates both during ontogeny and across species of varying adult body size. We show that the updated version of the model is internally consistent and is consistent with other predictions of metabolic scaling theory and empirical data. The OGM predicts not only the near universal sigmoidal form of growth curves but also the M(1/4) scaling of the characteristic times of ontogenetic stages in addition to the curvilinear decline in growth efficiency described by Brody. Additionally, the OGM relates the M(3/4) scaling across adults of different species to the scaling of metabolic rate across ontogeny within species. In providing a simple, quantitative description of how energy is allocated to growth, the OGM calls attention to unexplained variation, unanswered questions, and opportunities for future research.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomass
  • Body Size / physiology*
  • Computer Simulation
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology*
  • Models, Biological*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Vertebrates / growth & development*