Weitz Group @ Georgia Tech Theoretical Ecology and Quantitative Biology

Evaluating scaling models in biology using hierarchical Bayesian approaches

TitleEvaluating scaling models in biology using hierarchical Bayesian approaches
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2009
AuthorsPrice CA, Ogle K, White EP, Weitz JS
JournalEcology Letters
Start Page641

Theoretical models for allometric relationships between organismal form and function are typically tested by comparing a single predicted relationship with empirical data. Several prominent models, however, predict more than one allometric relationship, and comparisons among alternative models have not taken this into account. Here we evaluate several different scaling models of plant morphology within a hierarchical Bayesian framework that simultaneously fits multiple scaling relationships to three large allometric datasets. The scaling models include: inflexible universal models derived from biophysical assumptions (e.g. elastic similarity or fractal networks), a flexible variation of a fractal network model, and a highly flexible model constrained only by basic algebraic relationships. We demonstrate that variation in intraspecific allometric scaling exponents is inconsistent with the universal models, and that more flexible approaches that allow for biological variability at the species level outperform universal models, even when accounting for relative increases in model complexity.

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