Meeting Abstract

S1.8  Sunday, Jan. 4 13:30  Optimal locomotion speeds in wild African carnivores during hunting and ranging. WILSON, Alan M; The Royal Veterinary College

We are interested in the factors that define how fast an animal choses to move when commuting and hunting particularly in free ranging wild animals in Southern Africa. We make these measurements using tracking collars of our own design containing high accuracy GPS and inertial sensors. It is a consistent observation across a range of species that, for an individual, the metabolic energy required to move a metre is fairly independent of speed of locomotion. When normalised for body mass the metabolic cost of transport (COT), is lower in larger animals. It has long been recognised that animals will usually choose to move at a preferred speed for each gait and that those speeds equate to the minimum metabolic cost of transport for that gait. The actual speed can be expressed in absolute terms or as dimensionless numbers to account for factors such as size or leg length. Whilst ranging may be undertaken at energetically optimum speeds and gaits, speed during coursing and hunting will be partially determined by the prey animal and the hunt strategy. At higher speeds other factors come into play and, for instance, cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus) rarely gallop at their maximum speed when hunting, rather they move slower so they have greater manoeuvrability and they appear to trade off between using their superior high speed to get close to prey and slowing down to enable greater acceleration and turning to outmanoeuvre and capture their prey. African wild dogs (Lycaon pictus) do not use the very high turning forces or accelerations of cheetahs when capturing the same prey but appear to be successful through having the endurance to make many hunting attempts and sharing kills.