Wildebeest in Botswana will travel 80 km over five days—and all without drinking water, according to data from tracking collars researchers attached to the animals. In a paper published last week (October 23) in Nature, the research team reports that wildebeest have efficient muscles that “deliver more mechanical work and release less heat from each ATP molecule split than any mammalian muscle studied to date.”
The researchers collared 20 blue wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus) after they were tranquilized by darts shot out of a helicopter. They gathered muscle biopsies while six of the animals were unconscious to test the tissue’s efficiency.
The animals typically went days without drinking water as they ranged across Makgadikgadi Pans National Park.
Back in the lab, tests on the muscle fibers showed they produced more work and less heat compared to cows’ tissue.
N.A. Curtin et al., “Remarkable muscles, remarkable locomotion in desert-dwelling wildebeest,” Nature, doi:10.1038/s41586-018-0602-4, 2018.