Animal lifestyle affects acceptable mass limits for attached tags

Rory P. Wilson, Kayleigh A. Rose, Richard Gunner, Mark D. Holton, Nikki J. Marks, Nigel C. Bennett, Stephen H. Bell, Joshua P. Twining, Jamie Hesketh, Carlos M. Duarte, Neil Bezodis, Milos Jezek, Michael Painter, Vaclav Silovsky, Margaret C. Crofoot, Roi Harel, John P. Y. Arnould, Blake M. Allan, Desley A. Whisson, Abdulaziz AlagailiDavid M. Scantlebury

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Animal-attached devices have transformed our understanding of vertebrate ecology. To minimize any associated harm, researchers have long advocated that tag masses should not exceed 3% of carrier body mass. However, this ignores tag forces resulting from animal movement. Using data from collar-attached accelerometers on 10 diverse free-ranging terrestrial species from koalas to cheetahs, we detail a tag-based acceleration method to clarify acceptable tag mass limits. We quantify animal athleticism in terms of fractions of animal movement time devoted to different collar-recorded accelerations and convert those accelerations to forces (acceleration × tag mass) to allow derivation of any defined force limits for specified fractions of any animal's active time. Specifying that tags should exert forces that are less than 3% of the gravitational force exerted on the animal's body for 95% of the time led to corrected tag masses that should constitute between 1.6% and 2.98% of carrier mass, depending on athleticism. Strikingly, in four carnivore species encompassing two orders of magnitude in mass (ca 2–200 kg), forces exerted by ‘3%' tags were equivalent to 4–19% of carrier body mass during moving, with a maximum of 54% in a hunting cheetah. This fundamentally changes how acceptable tag mass limits should be determined by ethics bodies, irrespective of the force and time limits specified.
Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1961
StatePublished - Oct 27 2021

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2021-11-01
Acknowledged KAUST grant number(s): KAUST Sensor Initiative
Acknowledgements: This work benefitted by funding from: the CAASE project (King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST)) under the KAUST Sensor Initiative (R.P.W., R.G., M.H., C.M.D.); the Royal Society/Wolfson Laboratory refurbishment scheme (R.P.W.); the Department of Learning and the Challenge Funding, and access provided by the National Trust and Forest Service NI (D.M.S., J.P.T.); the Vice Deanship of Research Chairs at the King Saud University, Saudi Arabia (A.A., D.M.S., N.C.B.); The Royal Society 2009/R3 JP090604 (D.M.S.); Natural Environment Research Council NE/I002030/1 (D.M.S.); the Department for Economy Global Challenges Research Fund (D.M.S.); the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) Northern Ireland (currently the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs) through various studentships (D.M.S., N.J.M.); the Department for the Economy studentship to J.P.T. (D.M.S., N.J.M.); the National Science Foundation IIS-1514174, IOS-1250895 (M.C.C.); the Packard Foundation Fellowship 2016-65130 (M.C.C.); the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in the framework of the Alexander von Humboldt Professorship endowed by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (M.C.C.); Deakin University, the advanced research supporting the forestry and wood-processing sector's adaptation to global change and EVA4.0, no. CZ.02.1.01/0.0/0.0/16_019/0000803 financed by OP RDE and supported by grant QK1910462.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Environmental Science
  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • General Medicine


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