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Animals perform many athletic tasks to an amazing degree of accomplishment: not only spectacular feats of running and jumping but also routine actions that ensure survival such as feeding, vocalization, diving, flying, and many more. The study of performance capacity (defined as the ability of an animal to conduct a key task) is of great interest to both ecologists and evolutionary biologists. At an ecological level, how well individuals perform often dictates opportunities for reproduction, occupation of preferred territories, or capturing prey. Therefore, variation in performance capacities can be a key determinant of variation in fitness within animal populations. At an evolutionary level, variation in function often follows closely from variation in form, and therefore enables animals to invade novel habitats, or to overtake other species. This novel book examines how and why animal athletes have evolved. It uses examples from across the animal kingdom and integrates them in the broader context of ecology and evolution, thereby identifying common themes that transcend taxonomic divisions.
Animal Athletes is an accessible textbook of particular relevance to undergraduates, graduate students, researchers, and professionals in the fields of evolutionary biology, ecology, vertebrate morphology, and functional morphology.
1: Animal performance: an overview
2: The ecology of performance I: Studies of fitness
3: The ecology of performance II: Performance in nature
4: The ecology of performance III: Physiological ecology
5: The evolution of performance I: Mechanism and anatomy
6: The evolution of performance II: Convergence, key innovations, and adaptation.
7: Trade-offs and constraints on performance
8: Sexual selection and performance
9: Extreme performance: The good, the bad, and the extremely rapid
10: Genetics, geographic variation, and community ecology
11: Human performance: A link to non-human animals
Duncan J. Irschick is a Professor in the Department of Biology at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. His interests include the evolution of form and function, ecology, and biomechanics. He has worked with many different animal species, including lizards, snakes, spiders, mammals, and sharks. He obtained his PhD from Washington University in St. Louis in 1996.
Timothy E. Higham is currently an Associate Professor in the Department of Biology at the University of California, Riverside. He studies comparative biomechanics, functional morphology, and physiology in a variety of organisms ranging from lizards to fishes. He received his PhD from the University of California, Davis in 2006.