Lifespan, growth rate, and body size across latitude in marine bivalvia, with implications for phanerozoic evolution

David K. Moss, Linda C. Ivany, Emily J. Judd, Patrick W. Cummings, Claire E. Bearden, Woo Jun Kim, Emily G. Artruc, Jeremy R. Driscoll

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

84 Scopus citations


Mean body size in marine animals has increased more than 100-fold since the Cambrian, a discovery that brings to attention the key life-history parameters of lifespan and growth rate that ultimately determine size. Variation in these parameters is not well understood on the planet today, much less in deep time. Here, we present a new global database of maximum reported lifespan and shell growth coupled with body size data for 1 148 populations of marine bivalves and show that (i) lifespan increases, and growth rate decreases, with latitude, both across the group as a whole and within well-sampled species, (ii) growth rate, and hence metabolic rate, correlates inversely with lifespan, and (iii) opposing trends in lifespan and growth combined with high variance obviate any demonstrable pattern in body size with latitude. Our observations suggest that the proposed increase in metabolic activity and demonstrated increase in body size of organisms over the Phanerozoic should be accompanied by a concomitant shift towards faster growth and/or shorter lifespan in marine bivalves. This prediction, testable from the fossil record, may help to explain one of the more fundamental patterns in the evolutionary and ecological history of animal life on this planet.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20161364
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1836
StatePublished - Aug 17 2016


  • Bivalve
  • Body size
  • Evolution
  • Growth rate
  • Latitude
  • Lifespan

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • General Environmental Science
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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