Abstract

We infer the body-size scaling slope of metabolic rate in a trilobite by applying a cell-size model that has been proposed to explain metabolic scaling in living organisms. This application is especially tractable in fossil arthropods with well-preserved compound eyes because the number and size of eye facets appear to be useful proxies for the relative number and size of cells in the body. As a case study, we examined the ontogenetic scaling of facet size and number in a ∼390-Myr-old local assemblage of the trilobite Eldredgeops rana, which has well-preserved compound eyes and a wide body-size range. Growth in total eye lens area resulted from increases in both facet area and number in relatively small (presumably young) specimens, but only from increases in facet area in large (presumably more mature) specimens. These results suggest that early growth in E. rana involved both cell multiplication and enlargement, whereas later growth involved only cell enlargement. If the cell-size model is correct, then metabolic rate scaled allometrically in E. rana, and the scaling slope of log metabolic rate versus log body mass decreased from ∼0.85 to 0.63 as these animals grew. This inferred age-specific change in metabolic scaling is consistent with similar changes frequently observed in living animals. Additional preliminary analyses of literature data on other trilobites also suggest that the metabolic scaling slope was <1 in benthic species, but ∼1 in pelagic species, as has also been observed in living invertebrates. The eye-facet size (EFS) method featured here opens up new possibilities for examining the bioenergetic allometry of extinct arthropods.

You do not currently have access to this article.