Energy cost of wheel running in house mice: implications for coadaptation of locomotion and energy budgets

Physiol Biochem Zool. Mar-Apr 1999;72(2):238-49. doi: 10.1086/316653.


Laboratory house mice (Mus domesticus) that had experienced 10 generations of artificial selection for high levels of voluntary wheel running ran about 70% more total revolutions per day than did mice from random-bred control lines. The difference resulted primarily from increased average velocities rather than from increased time spent running. Within all eight lines (four selected, four control), females ran more than males. Average daily running distances ranged from 4.4 km in control males to 11.6 km in selected females. Whole-animal food consumption was statistically indistinguishable in the selected and control lines. However, mice from selected lines averaged approximately 10% smaller in body mass, and mass-adjusted food consumption was 4% higher in selected lines than in controls. The incremental cost of locomotion (grams food/revolution), computed as the partial regression slope of food consumption on revolutions run per day, did not differ between selected and control mice. On a 24-h basis, the total incremental cost of running (covering a distance) amounted to only 4.4% of food consumption in the control lines and 7.5% in the selected ones. However, the daily incremental cost of time active is higher (15.4% and 13.1% of total food consumption in selected and control lines, respectively). If wheel running in the selected lines continues to increase mainly by increases in velocity, then constraints related to energy acquisition are unlikely to be an important factor limiting further selective gain. More generally, our results suggest that, in small mammals, a substantial evolutionary increase in daily movement distances can be achieved by increasing running speed, without remarkable increases in total energy expenditure.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological
  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution
  • Body Mass Index
  • Energy Metabolism / genetics
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology*
  • Locomotion / physiology*
  • Mice
  • Physical Conditioning, Animal / physiology*