Size in the Ocean

New paper from Ocean Life Centre: Characteristic Sizes of Life in the Oceans, from Bacteria to Whales

Friday 07 Aug 15


Ken Haste Andersen
Professor, Head of Section
DTU Aqua
+4535 88 33 99

The Ocean Life project "Characteristic Sizes of Life in the Oceans, from Bacteria to Whales" is now available from Annual Reviews in Marine Science. The project investigates how the master trait, size, determines design and strategy of aquatic organisms, from bacteria to whales

Imagine picking any organism, from bacteria to whales, out of the ocean. Which one trait characterizes the largest part of this organism’s physiology, encounter rate with prey (and predators), abundance of conspecifics, reproductive rate etc.? The body size of the organism has been proposed as the best candidate for such a master trait. We show how body size also determines the organism’s fundamental design and strategy towards life: if it is small (unicellular) it is likely to photosyntheize, while very small bacteria does not photosynthesize. If the organism is large (larger than about a cm) it is likely to be slender and streamlined, while smaller organisms come in odd shapes with appendages necessary for sensing movements of the water to compensate for lack of vision. Larger organisms, such as fish, however, are largely visual predators. The largest organisms in the ocean are warm blooded and breathe air, while all organisms less than about 10 kg are cold blooded and take oxygen from the water. The grand scale of the review illustrates the power of a trait-based perspective transcending the usual species or group specific focus. It also makes the paper well suited for journal clubs or undergraduate teching.

The paper can be found here

Characteristic Sizes of Life in the Oceans, from Bacteria to Whales
K.H. Andersen, T. Berge, R.J. Gonçalves, M. Hartvig, J. Heuschele, S. Hylander, N.S. Jacobsen, C. Lindemann, E.A. Martens, A.B. Neuheimer, K. Olsson, A. Palacz, F. Prowe, J. Sainmont, S.J. Traving, A.W. Visser, N. Wadhwa, and T. Kiørboe
Annual Review of Marine Science, Vol. 8: (Volume publication date January 2016)
15 OCTOBER 2019