Differences in metabolic costs of terrestrial mobility in two closely related species of albatross

Alexander Kabat, RA Phillips, John Croxall, Patrick Butler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

4 Citations (Scopus)


Black-browed albatrosses Thalassarche melanophrys typically colonise steeper habitats than grey-headed albatrosses T. chrysostoma. The present study investigated the effect of colony philopatry on terrestrial locomotory ability in these two species, to determine: ( 1) if there is a difference in terrestrial locomotory ability between these two closely related species, and ( 2) what physiological or behavioural adaptations may account for any differences identified. We examined the metabolic cost, mechanical efficiency on an incline, and gait characteristics of terrestrial locomotion of these two species on both level and inclined planes. T. chrysostoma were able to perform at a significantly greater speed than T. melanophrys without reaching a significantly different maximal rate of oxygen consumption ( overdot(V)(O2)). Conversely, T. melanophrys were able to move up a significantly steeper incline than T. chrysostoma while maintaining a similar maximal overdot(V)(O2). Each species demonstrates stride length, force production ( behavioural) and leg length ( morphological) adaptations that minimise the cost of traversing their chosen colonies, indicating a clear relationship between terrestrial performance and local topography. However, it is not possible to determine if the difference in locomotory ability results from differences in colony topography, or if choice of colony site is dictated by the ability of the species to traverse different terrain.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2851-2858
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number16
Publication statusPublished - 15 Aug 2007


  • gait analysis
  • metabolic rate
  • energetics
  • cost of locomotion
  • procellariiform
  • thalassarche melanophrys
  • Thalassarche chrysostoma


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