Predictions associated with opposing selection generating minimum variance in basal metabolic rate (BMR) in mammals at a constrained body mass (CBM; 358 g) were tested. The CBM is presumed to be associated with energetic constraints linked to predation and variable resources at intermediate sizes on a logarithmic mass scale. Opposing selection is thought to occur in response to energetic constraints associated with predation and unpredictable resources. As body size approaches and exceeds the CBM, mammals face increasing risks of predation and daily energy requirements. Fast running speeds may require high BMRs, but unpredictable and low resources may select for low BMRs, which also reduce foraging time and distances and thus predation risks. If these two selection forces oppose each other persistently, minimum BMR variance may result. However, extreme BMR outliers at and close to the CBM should be indicative of unbalanced selection and predator avoidance alternatives (escapers vs. defenders), and may therefore provide indirect support for opposing selection. It was confirmed that body armor in defenders evolves at and above the CBM, and armored mammals had significantly lower BMRs than their nonarmored counterparts. However, analyses comparing the BMR of escapers—the fastest nonarmored runners (Lagomorpha)—with similar-sized counterparts were inconclusive and were confounded by limb morphology associated with speed optimization. These analyses suggest that the risks and costs of predation and the speed limitations of the plantigrade foot may constrain the evolution of large body sizes in plantigrade mammals.
Corresponding Editor: T. Garland Jr.