Saturday, 4 October 2014

NEWSLINK-Pumas Trained to Run on Treadmill Help Explain Big Cat’s Ambush Strategy

Training a puma to run on a treadmill shows how the big cat’s ambush-hunting strategy helps it conserve enough energy to survive. Photo courtesy of M. Miller, CDOW. “Never say you can’t train a cat,” is what a researcher said after taking ten months “and a lot of meat” to train “Rascal” and other captive mountain lions to walk on a treadmill. The cooperation of the felines helped scientists understand how wild mountain lions burn energy and explained why the big cats’ use of the ambush method to catch their prey works so well for them. By Liza Gross The puma, the Western Hemisphere’s most widely distributed mammal, is rarely seen. But its stealth may explain how the cat manages the high-energy costs of its carnivore lifestyle, a new study based in part on teaching a puma to run on a treadmill shows. The highly adaptable puma can live in most any American habitat, from alpine forests to swamplands, and goes by names as varied as the places it once roamed. But “ghost cat” best captures the American lion’s secretive nature, which challenges researchers studying its habits to develop increasingly clever methods of doing so. Among the most basic questions biologists want to answer is how pumas manage the energetic costs of hunting and killing prey at least twice their size. And now, a team of biologists has managed what some thought impossible – training a puma to run on a treadmill – to show how the big cat’s ambush-hunting strategy helps it conserve enough energy to survive. The group, led by Terrie Williams and Chris Wilmers of the University of California, Santa Cruz, spent years working with engineers to develop a novel wildlife tracking collar to measure the energetics, movements and behaviors of animals in the wild. Energetic expenditure is the lifeblood of an animal, says Wilmers. “If they’re burning more calories than they’re consuming they’ll die. And without enough surplus calories, they’ll never reproduce successfully.” But biologists didn’t have a direct way to continuously monitor energy costs. So Williams and Wilmers developed their SMART (species movement, acceleration and radio tracking) collar, which tracks location with a global position READ MORE- system and measures movement-generated forces with an electronic accelerometer

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