Locomotion: Comparative Energetic Costs


The relative energetic cost of animal locomotion, over land, in water, and in the air, varies according to body size and the mode of locomotion adopted. Using various techniques, these costs may be measured and compared.

Keywords: walking; running; swimming; flight; energy costs

Figure 1.

Three experiments in which oxygen consumption during locomotion was measured. In each case the animal remains stationary while the environment moves. From R. McN. Alexander (1975) Biomechanics, Chapman and Hall, London.

Figure 2.

Schematic graphs of metabolic rate against speed, for (a) running; (b) flapping flight; and (c) swimming. vmr, maximum range speed.

Figure 3.

Diagrams of human locomotion: (a to c), walking; (d to f), running.


Further Reading

Alexander RMcN (1992) Exploring Biomechanics: Animals in Motion. New York: Scientific American Library.

Alexander RMcN (1995) How Animals Move. A multimedia CD‐ROM produced by Maris Multimedia, London for the Discovery Channel.

Alexander RMcN (1998) Energy for Animal Life. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Ellington CP and Pedley TJ (eds) (1995) Biological Fluid Dynamics. Symposia of the Society for Experimental Biology, vol. 49. Cambridge: Company of Biologists.

Maddock L, Bone Q and Rayner JMV (eds) (1994) Mechanics and Physiology of Animal Swimming. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Rayner JMV (1995) Flight mechanics and constraints on flight performance. Israel Journal of Zoology 41: 321–342.

Suarez RK (1996) Upper limits to metabolic rates. Annual Reviews of Physiology 58: 583–605.

Videler JJ (1993) Fish Swimming. London: Chapman and Hall.

Weibel ER and Taylor CR (eds) (1981) Design of the mammalian respiratory system. Respiration Physiology 44: 1–164.

Wieser W and Gnaiger E (1989) Energy Transformations in Cells and Organisms. Stuttgart, Germany: Thieme.

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Alexander, R McNeill(Apr 2001) Locomotion: Comparative Energetic Costs. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. http://www.els.net [doi: 10.1038/npg.els.0001871]