Primate energy expenditure and life history.

Journal Article

Humans and other primates are distinct among placental mammals in having exceptionally slow rates of growth, reproduction, and aging. Primates' slow life history schedules are generally thought to reflect an evolved strategy of allocating energy away from growth and reproduction and toward somatic investment, particularly to the development and maintenance of large brains. Here we examine an alternative explanation: that primates' slow life histories reflect low total energy expenditure (TEE) (kilocalories per day) relative to other placental mammals. We compared doubly labeled water measurements of TEE among 17 primate species with similar measures for other placental mammals. We found that primates use remarkably little energy each day, expending on average only 50% of the energy expected for a placental mammal of similar mass. Such large differences in TEE are not easily explained by differences in physical activity, and instead appear to reflect systemic metabolic adaptation for low energy expenditures in primates. Indeed, comparisons of wild and captive primate populations indicate similar levels of energy expenditure. Broad interspecific comparisons of growth, reproduction, and maximum life span indicate that primates' slow metabolic rates contribute to their characteristically slow life histories.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Pontzer, H; Raichlen, DA; Gordon, AD; Schroepfer-Walker, KK; Hare, B; O'Neill, MC; Muldoon, KM; Dunsworth, HM; Wood, BM; Isler, K; Burkart, J; Irwin, M; Shumaker, RW; Lonsdorf, EV; Ross, SR

Published Date

  • January 13, 2014

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 111 / 4

Start / End Page

  • 1433 - 1437

PubMed ID

  • 24474770

Pubmed Central ID

  • 24474770

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1091-6490

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0027-8424

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1073/pnas.1316940111

Language

  • eng