The Arnold Berliner Award 2018
Endothermy and its evolution in the amniotes, which describe a clade of vertebrates comprising the reptiles, birds, and mammals, remain an unresolved scientific problem. The paper develops a model linking shifts in developmental trajectory to a number of modelling outcomes that are consistent with changes accompanying the origins of birds and mammals, and that are also consistent with many characteristics found in today’s endothermic birds and mammals. In particular, the model assumes that an early stop in growth during ontogeny could have played a key role in the evolution of endothermy. This is based on morphological characteristics derived from the fossil record of ancestral amniotes and the assumption that mutations in a number of genes responsible of growth slowed down and stopped growth early in life, meaning the animal’s size and appearance resemble that of the juvenile ectothermic ancestor. However, other species characteristics like metabolic rate and life history parameters such as body mass/size at hatching or birth, age and size at which sexual maturity is reached, and the growth rate during early ontogeny are still retained. An early stop in growth during ontogeny may have been instrumental in the development of energy-demanding endothermy, as such process freed energy now available for metabolic heat production and simultaneously shifted up life history parameters in comparison to body size, e.g. larger egg/offspring size, growth rate. Over evolutionary timescale, these characteristics of ancestral endotherms were subject to natural selection and resulted in many adaptations linked to endothermy in today’s birds and mammals. The authors make it very clear that this model does not resolve all the issues surrounding the evolution of endothermy. The findings, however, will most likely stimulate new evolutionary, developmental and physiological research on this fascinating scientific problem.
“Concepts & Synthesis” articles in The Science of Nature present evidence-supported theoretical work that synthesise a research area and provide a perspective on a fundamental problem. The journal publishes only very few articles of this type, as new theoretical approaches to problem solving are generally scarce. This paper format should not be confused with a traditional Review article and does not therefore aim at a balanced revision of a topic.
- Thatje S (2013) Dr Arnold Berliner (1862-1942); physicist and founding editor of Naturwissenschaften. Naturwissenschaften 100:1105–1107Google Scholar
- Werner J, Griebeler EM (2017) Was endothermy in amniotes induced by an early stop in growth during ontogeny? Sci Nat 104:90. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00114-017-1513-1