Mathematics Behind Metabolism
February 14, 2005 6:13 AM   Subscribe

Really neat post! It's an interesting model, and I love that they've come up with an alternative to the time-based mutation clock that's yielding interesting results. I'm not sure if they are claiming that their equation accounts for biodiversity within species or if it accounts for the biodiversity of species: "Most evolutionary biologists have tended to approach biodiversity questions in terms of historical events, such as landmasses separating, Kaspari says. The idea that size and temperature are the driving forces behind biodiversity is radical, he says."

Mutation isn't enough to account for a speciation event; we can't just throw out the importance of reproductive isolation. It's possible that this model would account for diversity within species (especially if small organisms tend to be more diverse), and for the speed of speciation, but not for speciation itself.

I also wonder how useful this will be for pinpointing speciation if the weakness in the model occurs with similarly sized animals.
posted by carmen at 7:22 AM on February 14, 2005

Nice post, mcgraw! I'm not well-versed enough in ecology or biology to further espouse on the topic like carmen did, but I still find the subject terribly interesting.
posted by cyrusdogstar at 9:04 AM on February 14, 2005

Fascinating stuff! Thanks, Mcgraw!
posted by shoepal at 11:15 AM on February 14, 2005

Really interesting. Thanks!

I also wonder how useful this will be for pinpointing speciation if the weakness in the model occurs with similarly sized animals.

Probably not useful at all as speciation is an incredibly vague concept.
posted by fshgrl at 11:24 AM on February 14, 2005

I can't read these ideas about the mathematics and engineering of biology without thinking of D'Arcy Thompson and his great book On Growth and Form, a great example, at the same time, of profound scientific thinking expressed more literately than we've come to expect these days, and of what has looked relatively like a scientific dead-end—though Thompson's emphasis on the larger questions (rather than on the microscopic analyses that came to define the frontiers of our biological knowledge) makes it more likely that his contributions may yet be taken up as spurs to the imagination of thinkers in this area.
posted by Zurishaddai at 12:06 PM on February 14, 2005

fshgrl: should I have stuck with "divergence in the phylogenetic tree?" As far as I remember, that's speciation, but I have been wrong before :)

What do you think of their claim that size and temperature may be more important in explaining biodiversity than "historical events like landmasses separating"? Are they suggesting that mutations take hold in the populations of small organisms so quickly that reproductive isolation can happen without physical separation? Or are they suggesting that you can get divergence in the phylogenetic tree without reproductive isolation, in which case I'm totally floored.
posted by carmen at 1:28 PM on February 14, 2005

Thanks for this!!

I've been reading a lot about scaling with regards to quantum physics and especially chaos-fractals...
It's good to see other sciences looking into using similar analytical tools to compare data.
posted by Balisong at 3:50 PM on February 14, 2005

McGraw scores again!
posted by orthogonality at 4:32 PM on February 14, 2005

McGraw scores again!

But he left out the related JPEG linked to the terminal punctuation!
posted by billsaysthis at 4:45 PM on February 14, 2005

For your enjoyment...
posted by mcgraw at 6:41 AM on February 15, 2005

Way cool man. Thanks!
posted by Smedleyman at 9:02 PM on February 15, 2005

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