Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Distribution Of Creatures Great And Small Can Be Predicted Mathematically

Date:
July 19, 2008
Source:
Santa Fe Institute
Summary:
In studying how animals change size as they evolve, biologists have unearthed several interesting patterns. For instance, most species are small, but the largest members of a taxonomic group -- such as the great white shark, the Komodo dragon, or the African elephant -- are often thousands or millions of times bigger than the typical species. Now for the first time researchers explain these patterns within an elegant statistical framework.

Elephant matriarch cow leading a herd. Most species are small, but the largest members of a taxonomic group -- such as the great white shark, the Komodo dragon, or the African elephant -- are often thousands or millions of times bigger than the typical species.
Credit: iStockphoto/Jonathan Heger

In studying how animals change size as they evolve, biologists have unearthed several interesting patterns. For instance, most species are small, but the largest members of a taxonomic group -- such as the great white shark, the Komodo dragon, or the African elephant -- are often thousands or millions of times bigger than the typical species.

Now for the first time two SFI researchers explain these patterns within an elegant statistical framework.

"The agreement between our model and real-world data is surprisingly close," says SFI Postdoctoral Fellow Aaron Clauset, who, along with SFI Professor Douglas Erwin, presented the findings in a July 18 Science paper.

In Clauset and Erwin's model, descendant species are close in size to their ancestors, but with some amount of random variation. But, this variation is constrained, first by a hard limit on how small a species can become, due to physiological constraints, and second by a soft limit on how large a species can become before becoming extinct. After millions of virtual years of new species evolving and old species becoming extinct, the model reaches an equilibrium in which the tendency of species to grow larger is offset by their tendency to become extinct more quickly.

By using fossil data on extinct mammals from up to 60 million years ago to specify the form of the model, the researchers showed that this evolutionary process accurately reproduces the diversity of 4,000 mammal species from the last 50,000 years.

"The model is remarkably compact, " says Aaron. "It also omits many traditional ideas from evolution and ecology, such as population dynamics or species interactions, yet makes very accurate predictions."

Because species size is fundamentally related to so many other characteristics like metabolism, life span and habitat, the researchers' simple evolutionary model offers support to idea that some aspects of evolutionary and ecological theory can be unified.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Santa Fe Institute. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Santa Fe Institute. "Distribution Of Creatures Great And Small Can Be Predicted Mathematically." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 July 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/07/080717174939.htm>.
Santa Fe Institute. (2008, July 19). Distribution Of Creatures Great And Small Can Be Predicted Mathematically. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 29, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/07/080717174939.htm
Santa Fe Institute. "Distribution Of Creatures Great And Small Can Be Predicted Mathematically." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/07/080717174939.htm (accessed July 29, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Rodents Rampant in Gardens Around Louvre

Rodents Rampant in Gardens Around Louvre

AP (July 29, 2014) Food scraps and other items left on the grounds by picnickers brings unwelcome visitors to the grounds of the world famous and popular Louvre Museum in Paris. (July 29) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Jane Goodall Warns Great Apes Face Extinction

Jane Goodall Warns Great Apes Face Extinction

AFP (July 29, 2014) The world's great apes face extinction within decades, renowned chimpanzee expert Jane Goodall warned Tuesday in a call to arms to ensure man's closest relatives are not wiped out. Duration: 00:58 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
How Your Face Can Leave A Good Or Bad First Impression

How Your Face Can Leave A Good Or Bad First Impression

Newsy (July 29, 2014) Researchers have found certain facial features can make us seem more attractive or trustworthy. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Rat Infestation at Paris' Tuileries Garden

Rat Infestation at Paris' Tuileries Garden

AFP (July 29, 2014) An infestation of rats is causing concern among tourists at Paris' most famous park -- the Tuileries garden next to the Louvre Museum. Duration: 00:54 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins