Why implantation of bio-loggers may improve our understanding of how animals cope within their natural environment

Integr Zool. 2019 Jan;14(1):48-64. doi: 10.1111/1749-4877.12364.


Bio-loggers are miniaturized autonomous devices that record quantitative data on the state of free-ranging animals (e.g. behavior, position and physiology) and their natural environment. This is especially relevant for species where direct visual observation is difficult or impossible. Today, ongoing technical development allows the monitoring of numerous parameters in an increasing range of species over extended periods. However, the external attachment of devices might affect various aspects of animal performance (energetics, thermoregulation, foraging as well as social and reproductive behavior), which ultimately affect fitness. External attachment might also increase entanglement risk and the conspicuousness of animals, leaving them more vulnerable to predation. By contrast, implantation of devices can mitigate many of these undesirable effects and might be preferable, especially for long-term studies, provided that the many challenges associated with surgical procedures can be mastered. Implantation may then allow us to gather data that would be impossible to obtain otherwise and thereby may provide new and ecologically relevant insights into the life of wild animals. Here, we: (i) discuss the pros and cons of attachment methods; (ii) highlight recent field studies that used implanted bio-loggers to address eco-physiological questions in a wide range of species; and (iii) discuss logger implantation in light of ethical considerations.

Keywords: behavior; bio-logging; device implantation; eco-physiology; long-term deployment.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Wild*
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Environment
  • Monitoring, Physiologic / instrumentation
  • Monitoring, Physiologic / veterinary*
  • Motor Activity