Universal scaling rules predict evolutionary patterns of myogenesis in species with indeterminate growth

Ian Alistair Johnston, Bjarni K. Kristjansson, Charles G. M. Paxton, Vera Lucia Almeida Vieira-Johnston, Daniel John MacQueen, Michael A. Bell

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13 Citations (Scopus)
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Intraspecific phenotypic variation is ubiquitous and often associated with resource exploitation in emerging habitats. For example, reduced body size has evolved repeatedly in Arctic charr (Salvelinus alpinus L.) and threespine stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus L.) across post-glacial habitats of the Northern Hemisphere. Exploiting these models, we examined how body size and myogenesis evolve with respect to the 'optimum fibre size hypothesis', which predicts that selection acts to minimize energetic costs associated with ionic homeostasis by optimizing muscle fibre production during development. In eight dwarf Icelandic Arctic charr populations, the ultimate production of fast-twitch muscle fibres (FN(max)) was only 39.5 and 15.5 per cent of that in large-bodied natural and aquaculture populations, respectively. Consequently, average fibre diameter (FD) scaled with a mass exponent of 0.19, paralleling the relaxation of diffusional constraints associated with mass-specific metabolic rate scaling. Similar reductions in FN(max) were observed for stickleback, including a small-bodied Alaskan population derived from a larger-bodied oceanic stock over a decadal timescale. The results suggest that in species showing indeterminate growth, body size evolution is accompanied by strong selection for fibre size optimization, theoretically allowing resources saved from ionic homeostasis to be allocated to other traits affecting fitness, including reproduction. Gene flow between small- and large-bodied populations residing in sympatry may counteract the evolution of this trait.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2255-2261
Number of pages7
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1736
Early online date11 Jan 2012
Publication statusPublished - 7 Jun 2012


  • Parallel evolution
  • Dwarfism
  • Muscle fibres
  • Threespine stickleback
  • Arctic charr
  • Scaling laws


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