Public Lecture: Nature’s Olympians - what animals can tell us about performance, health & disease

  • 20 September 2023
  • 20 September 2023, 17:30 - 18:30
  • Online
  • Dr Mark Burnley, Senior Lecturer and Exercise Physiologist

In this talk, Dr Mark Burnley will take you on an academic safari through the animal kingdom.

He will touch on a wide variety of movement patterns including: terrestrial locomotion (from the peristaltic movement of worms to pentapedal and hopping locomotion in kangaroos), swimming, jet propulsion in squid, and flying in insects, birds and mammals, and how these movements are essential elements of feeding and mating behaviours, as well as to escape predation.

The lengths animals go to to achieve this can be extreme, with migratory birds crossing vast distances, sometimes in excess of 10,000 km in a single flight, to find new feeding grounds as the earth’s seasons change.

The ability to move has been the subject of evolutionary selection pressure, e.g. predator-prey interactions, resulting in some species possessing extremely athletic phenotypes, e.g. the cheetah [Acinonyx jubatus] and the pronghorn antelope [Antilocapra americana]).

All movement requires energy transfer from the potential energy in stored macronutrients, to kinetic energy, to power conformational changes in contractile proteins. Dr Burnley explains that to possess an athletic phenotype requires well-developed bioenergetic, cardiovascular, and respiratory systems to achieve and, crucially, sustain rapid movement. He will shed light on the fundamental performance problem that all species are faced with – being a “fast” phenotype is seemingly incompatible with endurance, and an endurance phenotype is usually incompatible with achieving high sprinting speeds.

Dr Burnley’s presentation will use investigations of the speed-duration relationship to detail how this problem has been studied in mammals, lizards, crustaceans, fish and birds, in an attempt to identify nature’s champion athletes.

Book now

Contact and booking details

Booking required?
Booking information
This online public lecture is free to attend and is open to anyone with an interest in the topic. The talk will last for approximately an hour. To book your place please complete the online booking form.