The physiology of movement

Mov Ecol. 2020 Feb 4:8:5. doi: 10.1186/s40462-020-0192-2. eCollection 2020.


Movement, from foraging to migration, is known to be under the influence of the environment. The translation of environmental cues to individual movement decision making is determined by an individual's internal state and anticipated to balance costs and benefits. General body condition, metabolic and hormonal physiology mechanistically underpin this internal state. These physiological determinants are tightly, and often genetically linked with each other and hence central to a mechanistic understanding of movement. We here synthesise the available evidence of the physiological drivers and signatures of movement and review (1) how physiological state as measured in its most coarse way by body condition correlates with movement decisions during foraging, migration and dispersal, (2) how hormonal changes underlie changes in these movement strategies and (3) how these can be linked to molecular pathways. We reveale that a high body condition facilitates the efficiency of routine foraging, dispersal and migration. Dispersal decision making is, however, in some cases stimulated by a decreased individual condition. Many of the biotic and abiotic stressors that induce movement initiate a physiological cascade in vertebrates through the production of stress hormones. Movement is therefore associated with hormone levels in vertebrates but also insects, often in interaction with factors related to body or social condition. The underlying molecular and physiological mechanisms are currently studied in few model species, and show -in congruence with our insights on the role of body condition- a central role of energy metabolism during glycolysis, and the coupling with timing processes during migration. Molecular insights into the physiological basis of movement remain, however, highly refractory. We finalise this review with a critical reflection on the importance of these physiological feedbacks for a better mechanistic understanding of movement and its effects on ecological dynamics at all levels of biological organization.

Keywords: ATP; Body condition; CORT; Dispersal; Eco-physiological nexus; Foraging; Hormones; Migration; PGI.

Publication types

  • Review