The ontogenetic growth model (OGM) of West et al. provides a general description of how metabolic energy is allocated between production of new biomass and maintenance of existing biomass during ontogeny. Here, we reexamine the OGM, make some minor modifications and corrections, and further evaluate its ability to account for empirical variation on rates of metabolism and biomass in vertebrates both during ontogeny and across species of varying adult body size. We show that the updated version of the model is internally consistent and is consistent with other predictions of metabolic scaling theory and empirical data. The OGM predicts not only the near universal sigmoidal form of growth curves but also the M1/4 scaling of the characteristic times of ontogenetic stages in addition to the curvilinear decline in growth efficiency described by Brody. Additionally, the OGM relates the M3/4 scaling across adults of different species to the scaling of metabolic rate across ontogeny within species. In providing a simple, quantitative description of how energy is allocated to growth, the OGM calls attention to unexplained variation, unanswered questions, and opportunities for future research.


Biological Sciences

Keywords and Phrases

Allometry; Bioenergetics; Metabolism; Ontogeny; Scaling

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)


Document Type

Article - Journal

Document Version

Final Version

File Type





© 2008 University of Chicago, All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 May 2008

PubMed ID


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Biology Commons