Demystifying the West, Brown & Enquist model of the allometry of metabolism

R.S. Etienne, M.E.F. Apol, H. Olff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

40 Citations (Scopus)


The allometry of metabolic rate has long been one of the key relationships in ecology. While its existence is generally agreed on, the exact value of the scaling exponent, and the key mechanisms that determine its value, are still hotly debated. The network model of West, Brown & Enquist (Science 276, 122¿126, 1997) predicts a value of 3/4 but, although appealing, this model has not been generally accepted. Here we reconstruct the model and derive the exponent in a clearer and much more straightforward way that requires weaker assumptions than the original model. Specifically, self-similarity of the network is not required. Our formulation can even be used if one or several assumptions of West et al. (1997) are considered invalid. Moreover, we provide a formula for the proportionality constant (i.e. the intercept of the allometric scaling relation) that shows explicitly where factors as temperature and stoichiometry affect metabolism.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)394-399
JournalFunctional Ecology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2006


  • scaling laws
  • mathematically correct
  • biologically relevant
  • biology
  • mammals
  • origin


Dive into the research topics of 'Demystifying the West, Brown & Enquist model of the allometry of metabolism'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this