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Integr Comp Biol. 2015 Dec;55(6):1125-41. doi: 10.1093/icb/icv106. Epub 2015 Oct 22.

Predicting the Movement Speeds of Animals in Natural Environments.

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*School of Biological Sciences, The University of Queensland, St Lucia, QLD 4072, Australia;
Department of Biology, University of St. Thomas, 2115 Summit Avenue, St Paul, MN 55105, USA;
Department of Life Sciences, University of Roehampton, SW15 4JD, UK;
School of Biological and Health Sciences, University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland 4556, Australia.


An animal's movement speed affects all behaviors and underlies the intensity of an activity, the time it takes to complete it, and the probability of successfully completing it, but which factors determine how fast or slow an animal chooses to move? Despite the critical importance of an animal's choice of speed (hereafter designated as "speed-choice"), we still lack a framework for understanding and predicting how fast animals should move in nature. In this article, we develop a framework for predicting speed that is applicable to any animal-including humans-performing any behavior where choice of speed occurs. To inspire new research in this area, we (1) detail the main factors likely to affect speed-choice, including organismal constraints (i.e., energetic, physiological, and biomechanical) and environmental constraints (i.e., predation intensity and abiotic factors); (2) discuss the value of optimal foraging theory in developing models of speed-choice; and (3) describe how optimality models might be integrated with the range of potential organismal and environmental constraints to predict speed. We show that by utilizing optimality theory it is possible to provide quantitative predictions of optimal speeds across different ecological contexts. However, the usefulness of any predictive models is still entirely dependent on being able to provide relevant mathematical functions to insert into such models. We still lack basic knowledge about how an animal's speed affects its motor control, maneuverability, observational skills, and vulnerability to predators. Studies exploring these gaps in knowledge will help facilitate the field of optimal performance and allow us to adequately parameterize models predicting the speed-choice of animals, which represents one of the most basic of all behavioral decisions.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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