Kinetic effects of temperature on rates of genetic divergence and speciation

Andrew P. Allen*, James F. Gillooly, Van M. Savage, James H. Brown

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

336 Citations (Scopus)


Latitudinal gradients of biodiversity and macroevolutionary dynamics are prominent yet poorly understood. We derive a model that quantifies the role of kinetic energy in generating biodiversity. The model predicts that rates of genetic divergence and speciation are both governed by metabolic rate and therefore show the same exponential temperature dependence (activation energy of ≈0.65 eV; 1 eV = 1.602 × 10-19 J). Predictions are supported by global datasets from plankionic foraminifera for rates of DNA evolution and speciation spanning 30 million years. As predicted by the model, rates of speciation increase toward the tropics even after controlling for the greater ocean coverage at tropical latitudes. Our model and results indicate that individual metabolic rate is a primary determinant of evolutionary rates: ≈1013 J of energy flux per gram of tissue generates one substitution per nucleotide in the nuclear genome, and ≈1023 J of energy flux per population generates a new species of foraminifera.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9130-9135
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number24
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jun 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Allopatric speciation
  • Biodiversity
  • Macroevolution
  • Metabolic theory of ecology
  • Molecular clock


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