What determines the basal rate of metabolism? [RESEARCH ARTICLE]

Brian K. McNab

The basal rate of metabolism (BMR) is the most reported estimate of energy expenditure in endotherms. Its principal determinant is body mass, but it also correlates with a variety of behavioral not determine basal rate, they are byproducts of the mechanisms that are its determinate. In mammals, mass-independent basal rate increases with muscle mass when it is>40% of body mass. Then basal rates in mammals are≥100% of the values expected from mass. Mammals with muscle masses<30% of body mass have lower basal rates, a diminished capacity to regulate body temperature, and often a reduced level of activity. At muscle masses<42% of body mass, birds have body temperatures and basal rates higher than mammals with the same muscle mass. Their high basal rates derive from a high blood flow and mitochondrial density in their pectoral muscles. These factors also occur in the flight muscles of bats. Oxygen transport to the pectoral muscles of birds is facilitated by an increase in heart mass and hematocrit. This arrangement avoids transporting a large muscle mass to fuel flight, thereby reducing the cost of flight. Pectoral muscle masses<9% of body mass correlate with a flightless condition in kiwis, rails, and ducks. Some fruit pigeons have basal rates as low as kiwis, while remaining volant. The mass-independent basal rates of endotherms principally reflect changes of muscle activity and mass. An increase in muscle mass may have contributed to the evolution of endothermy.

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