Moving cheaply: energetics of walking in the african elephant
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Large animals have a much better fuel economy than small ones, both when they rest and when they run. At rest, each gram of tissue of the largest land animal, the African elephant, consumes metabolic energy at 1/20 the rate of a mouse; using existing allometric relationships, we calculate that it should be able to carry 1 g of its tissue (or a load) for 1 km at 1/40 the cost for a mouse. These relationships between energetics and size are so consistent that they have been characterized as biological laws. The elephant has massive legs and lumbers along awkwardly, suggesting that it might expend more energy to move about than other animals. We find, however, that its energetic cost of locomotion is predicted remarkably well by the allometric relationships and is the lowest recorded for any living land animal.