Vertebrate blood cell volume increases with temperature: Implications for aerobic activity

James F. Gillooly, Rosana Zenil-Ferguson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Aerobic activity levels increase with body temperature across vertebrates. Differences in these levels, from highly active to sedentary, are reflected in their ecology and behavior. Yet, the changes in the cardiovascular system that allow for greater oxygen supply at higher temperatures, and thus greater aerobic activity, remain unclear.Here we show that the total volume of red blood cells in the body increases exponentially with temperature across vertebrates, after controlling for effects of body size and taxonomy. These changes are accompanied by increases in relative heart mass, an indicator of aerobic activity. The results point to one way vertebrates may increase oxygen supply to meet the demands of greater activity at higher temperatures.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere346
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2014


  • Aerobic capacity
  • Allometry
  • Erythrocyte
  • Metabolic rate
  • Oxygen consumption
  • Respiration
  • Scaling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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