Metabolic allometry during development and metamorphosis of the silkworm Bombyx mori: analyses, patterns, and mechanisms

Physiol Biochem Zool. Mar-Apr 2010;83(2):215-31. doi: 10.1086/648393.


Intraspecific allometric (scaling) relationships for metabolism, which have received little examination compared to interspecific relationships, reflect a complex interplay of organogenesis, growth, and shifting physiologies. In this study of the silkworm Bombyx mori, we hypothesized that allometric relationships for metabolism both across all developmental stages and within each stage would not reflect conventional scaling coefficients (e.g., b not equal to 0.75). Histology, gross morphology, body surface and cross-sectional area, total lipid content, and cytochrome c oxidase activity levels (as evidence of the total metabolic potential of mitochondria) were determined across development. Also measured were oxygen consumption, carbon dioxide production, and the respiratory exchange ratio. The overall slope, b, in the allometric equation relating to body mass across all developmental stages was 0.82, not greatly different from the value of 0.75 typical of interspecific data. However, within larval instars II-V and in prepupae, b varied between 0.99 and 1.49, far higher than hypothesized. Thus, in B. mori, an analytical approach that lumps all developmental stages hides interinstar variability. Morphological and biochemical data suggest that observed scaling patterns in B. mori are likely correlated with changes in overall mitochondrial density rather than with specific changes in body proportion of tissues with higher intrinsic metabolic intensity.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Body Surface Area
  • Body Water / metabolism
  • Bombyx / chemistry
  • Bombyx / growth & development*
  • Bombyx / metabolism
  • Carbon Dioxide / metabolism
  • Digestive System / anatomy & histology
  • Electron Transport Complex IV / metabolism
  • Larva / growth & development
  • Larva / metabolism
  • Lipids / analysis
  • Metamorphosis, Biological / physiology*
  • Mitochondria / enzymology
  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • Oxygen Consumption
  • Pupa / growth & development
  • Pupa / metabolism


  • Lipids
  • Carbon Dioxide
  • Electron Transport Complex IV