|Publisher||Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences|
Kleiber's law describes the scaling of metabolic rate with body size across several orders of magnitude in size and across taxa and is widely regarded as a fundamental law in biology. The physiological origins of Kleiber's law are still debated and generalizations of the law accounting for deviations from the scaling behavior have been proposed. Most theoretical and experimental studies of Kleiber's law, however, have focused on the relationship between the average body size of a species and its mean metabolic rate, neglecting intraspecific variation of these 2 traits. Here, we propose a theoretical characterization of such variation and report on proof-of-concept experiments with freshwater phytoplankton supporting such framework. We performed joint measurements at the single-cell level of cell volume and nitrogen/carbon uptake rates, as proxies of metabolic rates, of 3 phytoplankton species using nanoscale secondary ion mass spectrometry (NanoSIMS) and stable isotope labeling. Common scaling features of the distribution of nutrient uptake rates and cell volume are found to hold across 3 orders of magnitude in cell size. Once individual measurements of cell volume and nutrient uptake rate within a species are appropriately rescaled by a function of the average cell volume within each species, we find that intraspecific distributions of cell volume and metabolic rates collapse onto a universal curve. Based on the experimental results, this work provides the building blocks for a generalized form of Kleiber's law incorporating intraspecific, correlated variations of nutrient-uptake rates and body sizes.
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