Aquatic and terrestrial locomotory energetics in a toad and a turtle: a search for generalisations among ectotherms

Physiol Biochem Zool. Nov-Dec 2000;73(6):672-82. doi: 10.1086/318101.


Murray short-necked turtles were trained to walk on a motorised treadmill and to swim in a recirculating flume. Through filmed records, the frequency of limb movement and the time that thrust was directed against the substrate were measured. The animals wore masks when walking and accessed air when swimming from a ventilated capsule placed on top of the water surface. Measurement of the exhalant O(2) and CO(2) levels from these devices enabled the measurement of metabolic rates. Equivalent data were obtained from swimming and hopping cane toads, although repeatable measures of limb frequency and contact times were not obtained due to the intermittent form of locomotion in this species. Comparing the cost of transport, the energy required to transport a mass of animal over a unit distance, with other animals showed that toads do not have a cheap form of terrestrial locomotion, but turtles do; turtles use half the cost predicted from their body mass. This economy of locomotion is consistent with what is known about turtle muscle, the mechanics of their gait, and the extremely long contact time for a limb with the substrate. Swimming in toads is energetically expensive, whereas turtles, on the basis of mass, use about the same energy to transport a unit mass as an equivalent-size fish. The data were compared with the predictions of the Kram-Taylor hypothesis for locomotory scaling, and walking turtles were found to provide a numerical fit. The data show that both terrestrial and aquatic locomotory energetics in toads are generally higher than predictions on the basis of mass, whereas in turtles they are lower.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bufo marinus / physiology*
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology*
  • Gait / physiology
  • Locomotion / physiology*
  • Turtles / physiology*