MRE Symonds (1999) Insectivore life histories: further evidence against an optimum body size for mammals. Functional Ecology 13: 508-513.

What is it about?

I used life history data from 60 odd species of insectivore (hedgehogs, shrews, moles etc.) to test an idea that had been proposed in the literature that the reason why most mammals were small was because it optimises ‘reproductive power’ at about 100g body mass. My data suggested that this was not the case, at least for insectivores.

The story behind the paper

This was my first paper, which is always a big moment. If you’ve never written a paper before, where do you start? Well, when I was doing my PhD I came across a paper by Kate Jones and Andy Purvis (also published in Functional Ecology) which had tested the ‘optimal body size’ idea using life-history data from bats. I realised that I could basically repeat their analysis with the data I was collecting for my thesis on insectivores. So in a way, this paper was a bit of a copy and paste job (not literally, plagiarism watchers), but it was a good way to write a first paper – using another paper as a framework. It also makes  it more likely to be accepted if you use exactly the same methods as an already published paper.


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