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Fluctuating selection on basal metabolic rate

  • Johan Nilsson
  • Jan-Åke Nilsson
Publishing year: 2016
Language: English
Pages: 1197-1202
Publication/Series: Ecology and Evolution
Volume: 6
Issue: 4
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell

Abstract english

BMR (Basal metabolic rate) is an important trait in animal life history as it represents a significant part of animal energy budgets. BMR has also been shown to be positively related to sustainable work rate and maximal thermoregulatory capacity. To this date, most of the studies have focused on the causes of interspecific and intraspecific variation in BMR, and fairly little is known about the fitness consequences of different metabolic strategies. In this study, we show that winter BMR affects local survival in a population of wild blue tits (Cyanistes caeruleus), but that the selection direction differs between years. We argue that this fluctuating selection is probably a consequence of varying winter climate with a positive relation between survival and BMR during cold and harsh conditions, but a negative relation during mild winters. This fluctuating selection can not only explain the pronounced variation in BMR in wild populations, but will also give us new insights into how energy turnover rates can shape the life-history strategies of animals. Furthermore, the study shows that the process of global warming may cause directional selection for a general reduction in BMR, affecting the general life-history strategy on the population level.


  • Ecology
  • Evolutionary Biology
  • Basal metabolic rate
  • fluctuating selection
  • metabolic strategy
  • winter survival


  • ISSN: 2045-7758