SICB Annual Meeting 2017
January 4-8, 2017
New Orleans, LA

Symposium: The Ecology of Exercise: Mechanisms Underlying Individual Variation in Movement Behavior, Activity or Performance

How hard do free-living animals work? What determines how hard individuals will work on specific activities? Is "exercise" a useful paradigm to apply to animal movement? Can animals work too hard, such that they pay costs of high levels of activity? Until recently, much work on "exercise" has been based in the laboratory (e.g. wheel- or treadmill-running in mammals and reptiles, birds flying in wind tunnels) and has been divorced from ecological context. To what extent do these systems provide good models for understanding activity in free-living animals (during routine behaviour such as foraging) and in particular do they help us understand the physiology of exercise in free-living animals. In this symposium we will define movement and exercise broadly as any behaviour that elevates the level of intensity of activity, in response to an ecological demand for increased performance. This can include situations which are widely assumed to be "demanding" such as long-distance migration or foraging behaviour associated with parental care. However, we will also consider other activities like escaping predators (or mates), pursuing prey and engaging in energetic mating displays.

This symposium is especially timely given the rapid pace of recent technological advances (geolocators, GPS, accelerometers) which are giving biologists an unprecedented ability to track the behaviour of free-living animals 24/7. This will allow researchers to directly address questions of individual variation, mechanisms, and fitness consequences of variation in movement. To date much of this work has been behavioural in nature: describing individual variation in movement patterns, and relating this to outcomes such as evading a predator. Much less work has addressed the physiological mechanisms underlying individual variation in performance, although this topic is the subject of quite heated, but largely theoretical debate. By highlighting "mechanisms" in this SICB symposium we hope to foster collaborations whereby physiologists and endocrinologists can work with ecologists, to fully exploit the potential of new bio-tracking and bio-logging technology

The speakers in this symposium will cover a wide range of animal taxa, different types of activity, behaviour or performance, and both laboratory- and field-based studies. However, we will encourage all speakers to address four central questions:

  1. How hard do free-living animals work during movement associated with any behaviour that elevates the level of intensity of activity, in response to an ecological (or evolutionary) demand for higher performance?
  2. Can paradigms of "exercise" and "training" be applied to free-living animals and are these useful concepts to apply to animal movement?
  3. Can animals work too hard during "routine" activities (e.g. rearing offspring, catching prey), such that they pay costs of high levels of activity?
  4. To what extent do laboratory-based studies of activity and exercise (e.g. wheel- or treadmill-running in mammals and reptiles, birds flying in wind tunnels) provide good models for understanding activity in free-living animals?
Common themes which we will ask all speakers to consider are, a) individual variation in the level of behaviour or performance, in response to challenging ecological scenarios b) physiological mechanisms underlying this individual variation, and c) fitness consequences of this individual variation.

Sponsors: DAB, DCB, DCPB, DEE, DVM.


  • Tony D Williams, Simon Fraser University, Canada
  • Shaun Killen, University of Glasgow, Scotland
  • Ryan Calsbeek, Dartmouth College, USA


S2-1 Thursday, Jan. 5, 08:00 YAP, KN*; SEROTA, M.W.; WILLIAMS, T.D.: The physiology of exercise in free-living animals: What can we learn from current model systems?

S2-2 Thursday, Jan. 5, 08:30 CALSBEEK, Ryan: Metamorphosis and the resolution of ontogenetic conflict

S2-3 Thursday, Jan. 5, 09:00 TOBALSKE, BW*; JACKSON, BE; DIAL, KP: Ontogeny of Pectoralis Function and Flight Capacity in Birds

S2-4 Thursday, Jan. 5, 09:30 GUGLIELMO, Christopher/G.: The challenge and promise of integrating wind tunnel and field studies of endurance of flight migratory birds

S2-5 Thursday, Jan. 5, 10:30 MCCLELLAND, G.B.*; LYONS, S.A.; ROBERTSON, C.E.: Exercise fuel use in mammals: Conserved patterns and evolved strategies for aerobic locomotion.

S2-6 Thursday, Jan. 5, 11:00 HAWKES, LA*; BATBAYAR, N; BUTLER, PJ; CHUA, B; FRAPPELL, PB; MILSOM, WK; NATSAGDORJ, T; SPIVEY, RS; SCOTT, GR; SPIVEY, RS; TAKEKAWA, JY; WIKELSKI, WITT, BISHOP, M, MJ, CM: Do bar-headed geese train for high altitude flights?

S2-7 Thursday, Jan. 5, 11:30 GARLAND, JR., T.*; ALBUQUERQUE, R.L.: Locomotion, energetics, performance, and behavior: a mammalian perspective on lizards, and vice versa

S2-8 Thursday, Jan. 5, 13:30 BINNING, Sandra A*; SHAW, Allison K; ROCHE, Dominique G: Exercising when sick: The role of pathogens on animal activity

S2-9 Thursday, Jan. 5, 14:00 BROWNSCOMBE, Jacob, W.*; COOKE, Steven, J.; ALGERA, Dirk; BURNETT, Nicholas, J.; ELIASON, Erika, J.; DANYLCHUK, Andy, J.; HINCH, Scott, G.: The ecology of exercise in wild fish - integrating concepts of individual physiological capacity, behaviour and fitness through diverse case studies

S2-10 Thursday, Jan. 5, 14:30 THOMPSON, M.A.*; KNIGHT-MALONEY, M.: Physiological and Biomechanical Mechanisms of Distance Specific Human Running Performance.

S2-11 Thursday, Jan. 5, 15:00 HALSEY, LG: ‘Fit for purpose’ and ‘in the best of shape’: exploring how physical fitness and body morphology might impact movement ecology