Metabolic energy fuels all biological processes, and therefore theories that explain the scaling of metabolic rate with body mass potentially have great predictive power in ecology. A new model, that could improve this predictive power, postulates that the metabolic scaling exponent (b) varies between 2/3 and 1, and is inversely related to the elevation of the intraspecific scaling relationship (metabolic level, L), which in turn varies systematically among species in response to various ecological factors. We test these predictions by examining the effects of lifestyle, swimming mode and temperature on intraspecific scaling of resting metabolic rate among 89 species of teleost fish. As predicted, b decreased as L increased with temperature, and with shifts in lifestyle from bathyal and benthic to benthopelagic to pelagic. This effect of lifestyle on b may be related to varying amounts of energetically expensive tissues associated with different capacities for swimming during predator-prey interactions.