Effective limb length and the scaling of locomotor cost in terrestrial animals.
Relative to body size, smaller animals use more energy to travel a given distance than larger animals, but the anatomical variable driving this negative allometry remains the subject of debate. Here, I report a simple inverse relationship between effective limb length (i.e. hip height) and the energy cost of transport (COT; J kg(-1) m(-1)) for terrestrial animals. Using published data for a diverse set of terrestrial species including birds, mammals, reptiles and arthropods, I show that between-species differences in locomotor cost are driven by differences in limb length. Notably, there is no independent effect of body mass on cost. Remarkably, effective limb length explains 98% of the observed variance in locomotor cost across a wide range of terrestrial species including mammals, birds, reptiles and arthropods. Variation about the limb-length/COT scaling relationship is attributable to taxonomic differences in limb design, with birds and arthropods exhibiting greater residuals than mammals. Differences in COT between semi-aquatic, generalist and cursorial species also corresponds to differences in leg length between these groups. These results are discussed in light of previous investigations of the limb length and locomotor cost.
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