Ecological correlates of body size in relation to cell size and cell number: patterns in flies, fish, fruits and foliage

Biological Reviews of the Cambridge Philosophical Society
Jeff Arendt


Body size is important to most aspects of biology and is also one of the most labile traits. Despite its importance we know remarkably little about the proximate (developmental) factors that determine body size under different circumstances. Here, I review what is known about how cell size and number contribute to phenetic and genetic variation in body size in Drosophila melanogaster, several fish, and fruits and leaves of some angiosperms. Variation in resources influences size primarily through changes in cell number while temperature acts through cell size. The difference in cellular mechanism may also explain the differences in growth trajectories resulting from food and temperature manipulations. There is, however, a poorly recognized interaction between food and temperature effects that needs further study. In addition, flies show a sexual dimorphism in temperature effects with the larger sex responding by changes in cell size and the smaller sex showing changes in both cell size and number. Leaf size is more variable than other organs, but there appears to be a consistent difference between how shade-tolerant and shade-intolerant species respond to light level. The former have larger leaves via cell size under shade, the...Continue Reading


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