Accelerometry predicts daily energy expenditure in a bird with high activity levels

Kyle H. Elliott*, Maryline Le Vaillant, Akiko Kato, John R. Speakman, Yan Ropert-Coudert

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

96 Citations (Scopus)


Animal ecology is shaped by energy costs, yet it is difficult to measure finescale energy expenditure in the wild. Because metabolism is often closely correlated with mechanical work, accelerometers have the potential to provide detailed information on energy expenditure of wild animals over fine temporal scales. Nonetheless, accelerometry needs to be validated on wild animals, especially across different locomotory modes. We merged data collected on 20 thick-billed murres (Uria lomvia) from miniature accelerometers with measurements of daily energy expenditure over 24 h using doubly labelled water. Across three different locomotory modes (swimming, flying and movement on land), dynamic body acceleration was a good predictor of daily energy expenditure as measured independently by doubly labelled water (R2 = 0.73). The most parsimonious model suggested that different equations were needed to predict energy expenditure from accelerometry for flying than for surface swimming or activity on land (R2 = 0.81). Our results demonstrate that accelerometers can provide an accurate integrated measure of energy expenditure in wild animals using many different locomotory modes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20120919
Pages (from-to)1-4
Number of pages4
JournalBiology Letters
Issue number1
Early online date19 Dec 2012
Publication statusPublished - 23 Feb 2013

Bibliographical note

The project would not have been possible without the ongoing support of Tony Gaston. J. Green, L. Halsey and five anonymous reviewers provided valuable comments that improved an earlier version of the manuscript. We thank our field companions in 2009 (J. Nakoolak, J. Provencher, P. Smith and K. Woo), J. Akearok and M. Mallory of Canadian Wildlife Service, R. Armstrong of Nunavut Research Institute and C. Eberl of Environment Canada for assistance with logistics. Financial support came from Environment Canada, NSTP, NSERC, PCSP, as well as the Fondation Prince Albert II de Monaco ( K.H.E. was supported by an NSERC Vanier Scholarship, a Garfield Weston Northern Studies Award, the Arctic Institute of North America Jennifer Robinson Scholarship, the Society of Canadian Ornithologists'/Bird Studies Canada Taverner and James Baillie Awards, the Frank Chapman Fund, a Sigma Xi Research Grant, and Animal Behaviour Society and American Ornithologists' Union Research Grants. M.L.V. was supported by the CNRS and the Fondation des Treilles.


  • Accelerometer
  • Dynamic body acceleration
  • Field metabolic rate
  • Muscle efficiency
  • Seabird


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