The evolution of gigantism in active marine predators

Humberto G. Ferrón*, Carlos Martínez-Pérez, Héctor Botella

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


A novel hypothesis to better understand the evolution of gigantism in active marine predators and the diversity of body sizes, feeding strategies and thermophysiologies of extinct and living aquatic vertebrates is proposed. Recent works suggest that some aspects of animal energetics can act as constraining factors for body size. Given that mass-specific metabolic rate decreases with body mass, the body size of active predators should be limited by the high metabolic demand of this feeding strategy. In this context, we propose that shifts towards higher metabolic levels can enable the same activity and feeding strategy to be maintained at bigger body sizes, offering a satisfactory explanation for the evolution of gigantism in active predators, including a vast quantity of fossil taxa. Therefore, assessing the metabolic ceilings of living aquatic vertebrates and the thermoregulatory strategies of certain key extinct groups is now crucial to define the energetic limits of predation and provide quantitative support for this model.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages5
JournalHistorical Biology
Early online date26 Apr 2017
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 26 Apr 2017


  • aquatic vertebrates
  • Body size
  • feeding strategy
  • metabolic rate
  • predators
  • thermophysiology

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