Animal tag technology keeps coming of age: an engineering perspective

Mark D. Holton, Rory P. Wilson, Jonas Teilmann, Ursula Siebert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Animal-borne tags (biologgers) have now become extremely sophisticated, recording data from multiple sensors at high frequencies for long periods and, as such, have become a powerful tool for behavioural ecologists and physiologists studying wild animals. But the design and implementation of these tags is not trivial because engineers have to maximize performance and ability to function under onerous conditions while minimizing tag mass and volume (footprint) to maximize the wellbeing of the animal carriers. We present some of the major issues faced by tag engineers and show how tag designers must accept compromises while maintaining systems that can answer the questions being posed. We also argue that basic understanding of engineering issues in tag design by biologists will help feedback to engineers to better tag construction but also reduce the likelihood that tag-deploying biologists will misunderstand their own results. Finally, we suggest that proper consideration of conventional technology together with new approaches will lead to further step changes in our understanding of wild-animal biology using smart tags. This article is part of the theme issue ‘Measuring physiology in free-living animals (Part II)’.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)20200229
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1831
StatePublished - Jun 28 2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2021-07-16
Acknowledged KAUST grant number(s): KAUST Sensor Initiative
Acknowledgements: This research contributes to the CAASE project funded by King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) under the KAUST Sensor Initiative.
This publication acknowledges KAUST support, but has no KAUST affiliated authors.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


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