Temperature-Mediated Transitions Between Isometry And Allometry In A Colonial, Modular Invertebrate

The evolutionary success of animal design is strongly affected by scaling and virtually all metazoans are constrained by allometry. One body plan that appears to relax these constraints is a colonial modular (CM) design, in which modular iteration is hypothesized to support isometry and indeterminate colony size. In this study, growth rates of juvenile scleractinians (less than 4 mm diameter) with a CM design were used to test this assertion using colony diameters recorded annually for a decade and scaling exponents (b) for growth calculated from double logarithmic plots of final versus initial diameters. For all juvenile corals, b differed significantly among years, with isometry (b=1) in 4 years, but positive allometry (b>1) in 5 years. The study years were characterized by differences in seawater temperature that were associated significantly with b for growth, with isometry in warm years but positive allometry in cool years. These results illustrate variable growth scaling in a CM taxon and suggest that the switch between scaling modes is mediated by temperature. For the corals studied, growth was not constrained by size, but this outcome was achieved through both isometry and positive allometry. Under cooler conditions, positive allometry may be beneficial as it represents a growth advantage that increases with size.