Terrestrial movement energetics: current knowledge and its application to the optimising animal

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The energetic cost of locomotion can be a substantial proportion of an animal’s daily energy budget and thus key to its ecology. Studies on myriad species have added
to our knowledge about the general cost of animal movement, including the effects of variations in the environment such as terrain angle. However, further such studies might provide diminishing returns on the development of a deeper understanding of how animals trade-off the cost of movement with other energy costs, and other ecological currencies such as time. Here, I propose the ‘individual energy landscape’ as an approach to conceptualising the choices facing the optimising animal. In this Commentary, first I outline previous broad findings about animal walking and running locomotion, focusing in particular on the use of net cost of transport as a metric of comparison between species, and then considering the effects of environmental perturbations and other extrinsic factors on movement costs. I then introduce and explore the idea that these factors combine with the behaviour of the animal in seeking short-term optimality to create that animal’s individual energy landscape – the result of the geographical landscape and environmental factors combined with the animal’s selected trade- offs. Considering an animal’s locomotion energy expenditure within this context enables hard-won empirical data on transport costs to be applied to questions about how an animal can and does move through its environment to maximise its fitness, and the relative importance, or otherwise, of locomotion energy economy.
Original languageUndefined
Pages (from-to)1424-1431
Number of pages8
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 18 May 2016

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