Understanding sex differences in the cost of terrestrial locomotion

John J. Lees, Robert L. Nudds, Lars P. Folkow, Karl Arne Stokkan, Jonathan R. Codd

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Little is known regarding the physiological consequences of the behavioural and morphological differences that result from sexual selection in birds. Male and female Svalbard rock ptarmigans (Lagopus muta hyperborea) exhibit distinctive behavioural differences during the breeding season. In particular, males continuously compete for and defend territories in order to breed successfully, placing large demands on their locomotor system. Here, we demonstrate that male birds have improved locomotor performance compared with females, showing both a lower cost of locomotion (CoL) and a higher top speed. We propose that the observed sex differences in locomotor capability may be due to sexual selection for improved male performance. While the mechanisms underlying these energetic differences are unclear, future studies should be wary when pooling male and female data. © 2011 The Royal Society.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)826-832
    Number of pages6
    JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
    Issue number1729
    Publication statusPublished - 22 Feb 2012


    • Energetics
    • Evolution
    • Locomotion
    • Sexual dimorphism
    • Sexual selection


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