A Mass Transfer Explanation of Metabolic Scaling Relations in Some Aquatic Invertebrates and Algae

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Science  13 Mar 1992:
Vol. 255, Issue 5050, pp. 1421-1423
DOI: 10.1126/science.255.5050.1421


Chemical engineering theory can be used in accounting for the broad range of metabolic scaling exponents found in some aquatic invertebrates and algae. Delivery of metabolically important compounds to these organisms occurs by diffusion through a boundary layer. Dimensionless relations (Sherwood-Reynolds number functions) demonstrate the degree to which water motion and organism size affect mass transfer, and ultimately, metabolic rate. Derivation of mass exponents in the range 0.31 to 1.25 for simple geometries such as plates, spheres, and cylinders directly follows from knowledge of the Sherwood-Reynolds number relations. The range of exponents predicted is that found by allometric studies of metabolic rate in these organisms.