University of California

Body size and metabolism


Max Kleiber

Author Affiliations

Max Kleiber was Associate in Animal Husbandry in the Experiment Station.

Publication Information

Hilgardia 6(11):315-353. DOI:10.3733/hilg.v06n11p315. January 1932.

PDF of full article, Cite this article


Abstract does not appear. First page follows.

The statement that the basal metabolism of animals differing in size is nearly proportional to their respective body surfaces, is called the surface law.

Benedict has shown that this law is already over ninety years old, Robiquet and Tillaye having formulated it quite clearly in 1839. The history of the surface law is given in the paper of (Harris and Benedict (1919)). We may here only briefly mention the different ways in which it has been found. The early writers derived the law from theoretical considerations on a rather small experimental basis, as did Bergmann, who in 1847 had already written a book on the subject. Respiration trials were carried out by Regnault and Reiset, and Rameaux based the surface law on measurements of the amount of air respired per minute by two thousand human beings of different sizes. (Rubner (1883)) demonstrated the law in accurate respiration trials on dogs and Richet rediscovered it empirically on rabbits. The latter writes (p. 223): “C’est aprèe coup seulement que je me suis avisé que la donnée surface était plus intéressante que la donnée poids.”

Although (Armsby, Fries, and Braman (1918), p. 55) found the surface law confirmed to a rather striking degree, this law is not at all so clear today as it appeared to its early discoverers. (Carman and Mitchell (1926), p. 380) state the situation very well: “In spite of the theoretical weakness of the surface law, the computation of basal metabolism to the unit of the body surface seems at present the most satisfactory method available of equalizing experimental results for differences in the size of experimental animals.”

Literature Cited

Armsby H. P., Fries A., Braman W. W. Basal katabolism of cattle and other species. Jour. Agr. Research. 1918. 13:43-57.

Begusch O., Wagner R. Über die Wärmeabgabe verschieden-farbiger Tiere. Zeitschr. f. Biol. 1926. 84:29-32.

Benedict F. G. Factors affecting basal metabolism. Jour. Biol. Chem. 1915. 20:263-299.

Benedict F. G., Macleod Grace. The heat production of the albino rat. Jour. Nutr. 1929. 1:343-398.

Benedict F. G., Riddle O. The measurement of the basal heat production of pigeons. Jour. Nutr. 1929. 1:475-536.

Benedict F. G., Ritzman E. The metabolism of the fasting steer. Carnegie Inst. of Wash. Publ. 1927. 377:1-245.

Benedict F. G., Slack E. P. A comparative study of temperature fluctuations in different parts of the human body. Carnegie Inst. of Wash. Publ. 1911. 155:1-73.

Benedict F. G., Talbot F. Metabolism and growth from birth to puberty. Carnegie Inst. of Wash. Publ. 1921. 302:1-213.

Boothby W. W., Sandiford Irene. Basal metabolism. Physiol. Rev. 1924. 4:69-161.

Brody S., Comfort J. E., Mathews J. S. Further investigation on surface area. Missouri Exp. Sta. Res. Bul. 1928. 115:1-37.

Carman G. G., Mitchell H. H. Estimation of the surface area of the white rat. Amer. Jour. Physiol. 1926. 76:380-384.

Cowgill G. R., Drabkin D. L. The surface area of the dog. Amer. Jour. Physiol. 1927. 81:36-61.

Deyghton T. A study of the metabolism of two breeds of pig. Jour. Agr. Sci. 1929. 19:140-184. DOI: 10.1017/S0021859600011229 [CrossRef]

Dreyer G., Ray W., Walker P. The blood volume of mammals. Philosoph. Transact. Roy. Soc. B. 1910. 201:133-160. DOI: 10.1098/rstb.1911.0003 [CrossRef]

Dreyer G., Ray W., Walker P. The size of the aorta. Proc. Roy. Soc. London B. 1912. 86:39-55. DOI: 10.1098/rspb.1912.0091 [CrossRef]

DuBois E. F. Basal metabolism in health and disease. 1927. Philadelphia: Lea and Febiger. 431p.

DuBois E. F. Recent advances in the study of basal metabolism. Jour. Nutr. 1930. 3:217-228.

Forbes E. B., Kriss M., Braman W. W. The computed as compared to the directly observed fasting metabolism. Jour. Agr. Research. 1927. 34:167-179.

Grafe E. Probleme der Gewebsatmung. Deutsche Med. Wochenschr. 1925. 51:640-642. DOI: 10.1055/s-0028-1136666 [CrossRef]

Grafe E., Reinwein H., Singer V. Gewebsatmung. Biochem. Zeitschr. 1925. 165:102-117.

Harris J. A., Benedict F. G. A biometric study of basal metabolism in man. Carnegie Inst. of Wash. Publ. 1919. 279:1-266.

Hess W. R. Über die periphere Regulierung der Blutzirkulation. Pflügers Arch. 1917. 168:439-490.

Hess W. R. Hydrostatik und Hydrodynamik. Handb. d. Norm. u. Pathol. Physiol. 1927. 7(2):889-903.

Hess W. R. Die Verteilung von Querschnitt, Widerstand, Druckgefälle und Strömungsgeschwindigkeit im Blutkreislauf. Handb. d. Norm. u. Pathol. Physiol. 1927a. 7 p. 904-933.

Hoesslin H. V. Über die Ursache der scheinbaren Abhängigkeit des Umsatzes von der Grösse der Körperoberfläche. Arch. Physiol. 1888. 1888:323-379.

Horst Kathryn, Mendel L. B., Benedict F. G. The metabolism of the albino rat during prolonged fasting at two different environmental temperatures. Jour. Nutr. 1930. 3:177-200.

Hütte. Des Ingenieurs Taschenbuch. 1925. 1:25. Aufl. Berlin: W. Ernst und Sohn. 1080p. vol. 3, 1208 p.

Kisch B. Strömungsgeschwindigkeit und Kreislaufszeit des Blutes. Handb. d. Norm. u. Pathol. Physiol. 1927. 7(2):1205-1222.

Krogh A. The respiratory exchange of animals and man. 1916. London: Longmans Green, and Co. 173p.

Krogh A. Anatomy and physiology of capillaries. 1929. New Haven: Yale University Press. 422p.

Kunde Margaret M., Steinhaus A. H. The basal metabolic rate of normal dogs. Amer. Jour. Physiol. 1926. 78:127-135.

Lehmann G. Energetik des Organismus. Oppenheimers Handb. d. Biochem. 2. Aufl. 1926. 6:564-608.

Lindhard J. A dye method for determining the blood volume in man. Amer. Jour. Physiol. 1926. 77:669-679.

Loewy A. Die Gase des Körpers und der Gaswechsel. Oppenheimer, C., Handbuch der Biochemie des Menschen und der Tiere. 1924. 6:2. Aufl. Jena: Verlag von Gustav Fischer. p. 1-24.

Lusk G. The science of nutrition. 1928. 4th ed. Philadelphia: W. B. Saunders. 844p.

Lusk G., DuBois E. F. On the constancy of the basal metabolism. Jour. Physiol. 1924. 59:213

Mach E. Die Prinzipien der Wärmelehre. 1919. 3. Aufl. Leipzig: Joh. Ambros. Barth. 484p.

Mitchell H. H. The significance of surface area determinations. Jour. Nutr. 1930. 2:437-442.

Mitchell H. H. The surface area of Single Comb White Leghorn chickens. Jour. Nutr. 1930a. 2:443-449.

Mitchell H. H., Carman G. G. Effect of excessive amounts of vitamin B on the basal metabolism of rats of different ages. Amer. Jour. Physiol. 1926. 76:385-397.

Mitchell H. H., Haines W. T. Basal metabolism of mature chickens. Jour. Agr. Research. 1927. 34:927-960.

Pfaundler M. Über die energetische Flächenregel. Pflüger’s Arch. 1921. 188:273-280.

Richet C. La chaleur animale. 1889. Paris: Felix Alcan. 307p.

Rihl J. Die Frequenz des Herzschlages. Handb. d. Norm. u. Pathol. Physiol. 1927. 7(1):449-522.

Ritzman E. G., Benedict F. G. The heat production of sheep under varying conditions. New Hampshire Agr. Exp. Sta. Bul. 1931. 45:1-32.

Rubner M. Über den Einfluss der Körpergrösse auf Stoff- und Kraftwechsel. Zeitschr. f. Biol. 1883. 19:535-562.

Rubner M. Das Wärmeleitvermögen der Gewebe unserer Kleidung. Arch. f. Hyg. 1895. 24:346-389.

Rubner M. Stoffwechsel bei verschiedenen Temperaturen. Beziehungen zu Grösse und Oberfläche. Handb. d. Norm. u. Pathol. Physiol. 1928. 5:154-166.

Stoeltzner W. Die 2/3 Potenz des Körpergewichtes als Mass des Energiebedarfs. Schriften d. Königsberger geiehrten Gesellsch. Naturw. Kl. 1928. 5:145-164.

Terroine E. Une hypothèse sur la loi qui régit l’intensité du métabolism des homéothermes. Compt. Rend. de l’Acad. d. Sci. 1924. 178:1022-1024.

Terroine E., Roche J. Production calorique et réspiration des tissus in vitro chez les homéothermes. Compt. Rend. de l’Acad. d. Sci. 1925. 180:225-227.

Tigerstedt R. Physiologie des Kreislaufs. 1921. 1:2. Aufl. 334p.

Trowbridge P. F., Moulton C. R., Haig L. D. The maintenance requirement of cattle. Missouri Agr. Exp. Sta. Res. Bul. 1915. 18:1-62.

Voit E. Über die Grösse des Energiebedarfs der Tiere im Hungerzustande. Zeitschr. f. Biol. 1901. 41:113-154.

Winterberg H. Herzflimmern und Herzflattern. Handb. d. Norm. u. Pathol. Physiol. 1927. 7(1):663-688.

Kleiber M. 1932. Body size and metabolism. Hilgardia 6(11):315-353. DOI:10.3733/hilg.v06n11p315
Webmaster Email: sjosterman@ucanr.edu