In a recent study1 a new proxy for palaeoclimate reconstructions was proposed on the basis of a theoretical approach linking the largest body sizes to ambient temperature in extant taxa of air-breathing poikilotherms2,3. The value of the largest fossil snake’s body length was used to estimate the mean annual temperature (MAT) for the Palaeocene neotropics of ΔT = 3.8–7.2 °C above the modern value1. Here we argue that the reported temperature difference is a twofold overestimate and obtain a corrected estimate of ΔT = 1.9–3.7 °C using the taxon-specific metabolic scaling exponent α = 0.17 for boid snakes. The importance of using relevant taxon-specific information in case of one-taxon-based temperature reconstructions1 while leaving the theoretically derived generic α values (such as α = 0.33 used by Head et al.1) for broad inter-taxonomic analyses2,3 is emphasized.
Subscribe to Journal
Get full journal access for 1 year
only $3.90 per issue
All prices are NET prices.
VAT will be added later in the checkout.
Rent or Buy article
Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.
All prices are NET prices.
Head, J. J. et al. Giant boid snake from the Palaeocene neotropics reveals hotter past equatorial temperatures. Nature 457, 715–717 (2009)
Makarieva, A. M., Gorshkov, V. G. & Li, B.-L. Gigantism, temperature and metabolic rate in terrestrial poikilotherms. Proc. R. Soc. Lond. B 272, 2325–2328 (2005)
Makarieva, A. M., Gorshkov, V. G. & Li, B.-L. Temperature-associated upper limits to body size in terrestrial poikilotherms. Oikos 111, 425–436 (2005)
Gorshkov, V. G. The distribution of energy flow among the organisms of different dimensions. Zh. Obshch. Biol. 42, 417–429 (1981)
Makarieva, A. M., Gorshkov, V. G. & Li, B.-L. A note on metabolic rate dependence on body size in plants and animals. J. Theor. Biol. 221, 301–307 (2003)
Makarieva, A. M. et al. Size- and temperature-independence of minimum life-supporting metabolic rates. Funct. Ecol. 20, 83–96 (2006)
Makarieva, A. M. et al. Mean mass-specific metabolic rates are strikingly similar across life’s major domains: Evidence for life’s metabolic optimum. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 105, 16994–16999 (2008)
White, C. R., Phillips, N. F. & Seymour, R. S. The scaling and temperature dependence of vertebrate metabolism. Biol. Lett. 2, 125–127 (2006)
Chappell, M. A. & Ellis, T. M. Resting metabolic rates in boid snakes: allometric relationships and temperature effects. J. Comp. Physiol. [B] 157, 227–235 (1987)
Evans, S. E., Jones, M. E. H. & Krause, D. W. A giant frog with South American affinities from the Late Cretaceous of Madagascar. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 105, 2951–2956 (2008)
Greenwood, D. R. et al. Fossil biotas from the Okanagan Highlands, southern British Columbia and northeastern Washington State: climates and ecosystems across an Eocene landscape. Can. J. Earth Sci. 42, 167–185 (2005)
Archibald, S. B. & Makarkin, V. N. Tertiary Giant Lacewings (Neuroptera: Polystoechotidae): revision and description of new taxa from western North America and Denmark. J. Syst. Paleontol 4, 119–155 (2006)
Grimaldi, D. & Engel, M. S. Evolution of the Insects Ch. 2 (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2005)
Rust, J. & Andersen, N. M. Giant ants from the Paleogene of Denmark with a discussion of the fossil history and early evolution of ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Zool. J. Linn. Soc. 125, 331–348 (1999)
About this article
Cite this article
Makarieva, A., Gorshkov, V. & Li, B. Re-calibrating the snake palaeothermometer. Nature 460, E2–E3 (2009) doi:10.1038/nature08223
Towards a Middle Pleistocene terrestrial climate reconstruction based on herpetofaunal assemblages from the Iberian Peninsula: State of the art and perspectives
Quaternary Science Reviews (2018)
Exploring and Explaining Complex Allometric Relationships: A Case Study on Amniote Testes Mass Allometry
A newEocaiman(Alligatoridae, Crocodylia) from the Itaboraí Basin, Paleogene of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Historical Biology (2013)