Special Issue "Allometric Scaling"
A special issue of Systems (ISSN 2079-8954).
Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (28 February 2014).
Interests: the aetiology of deep venous thrombosis and chronic venous insufficiency; allometric scaling of metabolic rate; mechanisms of intracellular transport; history and philosophy of medicine and biology
Interests: ergodic theory of dynamical systems and its applications to the analysis of biological processes at molecular, cellular and population levels; quantum statistics as a formalism to investigate the dynamics of electron transport and proton transduction in cellular metabolism
Interests: computational drug design; systems biology of cancer and neurodegenerative diseases; tubulin
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Conventionally, allometric scaling is described by a two-parameter equation linking one biological variable (such as basal metabolic rate, B) to another (such as body mass, M):
where a is the proportionality constant and ß is the scaling exponent. There have been debates for some eighty years about the reality of allometric scaling, the values of a and especially ß for different groups of organisms, and how the phenomenon (if real) is to be explained.
Investigations were initially focused on studies of plants and animals. In recent years, metabolism has been shown to play critical roles in the origin of age-related human diseases, such as cancer and neurological disorders. Accordingly, analyses of scaling relations between metabolic rate and body mass have now addressed processes at the cellular and molecular levels.
During the past decade and a half, there have been several efforts to clarify the empirical basis of the scaling rules and to furnish analytical models to explain these rules.
Recent discussion with colleagues, who are invited contributors to this special issue, indicate that both the empirical and theoretical aspects of allometric scaling relations remain highly controversial. The controversy revolves around three main issues:
(a) The range of values of the scaling exponent.
Is the exponent, ß = 3/4, universal—modulo statistical fluctuations, or can ß assume values which range from 0 to 1?
(b) The dependency of the proportionality constant on environmental parameters.
Does the dependency on temperature, for example, follow a universal law, or does it depend on the level of biological organization—uni-cells, plants, animals.
(c) The relation between the scaling exponent and the proportionality constant.
Does there exist a robust empirical relation valid for different group of organisms, between the scaling exponent and the proportionality constant?
The present controversy in the field of allometric scaling indicates that these issues, particularly the problems of theoretical interest, will not easily be resolved.
We hope that the various contributors and the different perspectives they represent will shed some further light on a problem whose implications range from metabolic processes in human diseases, to the study of the structure and organization of ecological networks.
Paul S. Agutter
Lloyd A. Demetrius
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- basal metabolic rate
- metabolic theory of ecology
- scaling exponent
- two-factor power law relationship