A theoretically valid proxy of energy expenditure is the acceleration of an animal's mass due to the movement of its body parts. Acceleration can be measured by an accelerometer and recorded onto a data logging device. Relevant studies have usually derived a measure of acceleration from the raw data that represents acceleration purely due to movement of the animal. This is termed 'overall dynamic body acceleration' (ODBA) and to date has proved a robust derivation of acceleration for use as an energy expenditure proxy. Acceleration data loggers are generally easy to deploy and the measures recorded appear robust to slight variation in location and orientation. This review discusses important issues concerning the accelerometry technique for estimating energy expenditure and ODBA; deriving ODBA, calibrating ODBA, acceleration logger recording frequencies, scenarios where ODBA is less likely to be valid, and the power in recording acceleration and heart rate together. While present evidence suggests that ODBA may not quantify energy expenditure during diving by birds and mammals, several recent studies have assessed changes in mechanical work in such species qualitatively through variation in ODBA during periods of submergence. The use of ODBA in field metabolic studies is likely to continue growing, supported by its relative ease of use and range of applications.
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