Professor Pat Butler

Professor Pat Butler

School of Biosciences
Emeritus Professor of Zoology

Contact details

+44 (0)121 41 45470
+44 (0)121 41 45466
School of Biosciences
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT


Research Theme within School of Biosciences: Organisms and Environment

Physiology of exercise and field energetics in vertebrates

I study the physiology of exercise and field energetics in vertebrates. These two are related, in as much as I am interested in the role of the circulatory system in the transport of oxygen in exercising animals. In doing so, I and my colleagues have established relationships between heart rate and rate of oxygen consumption in species from every Class of vertebrate except amphibians. By using implantable data loggers, we are currently using heart rate to estimate field metabolic rate throughout the annual cycle in a number of species of aquatic birds and mammals.

Thus we are able to determine the energy costs of various activities during the year including during the non-breeding period, when the location of the animals is often unknown. We are currently investigating the behaviour, energetics and physiology of bar-headed geese migrating between India and China/Mongolia, which involves flying over the Himalayas. This is interesting not only because they fly at altitudes where the partial pressure of oxygen is 1/3 the sea level value, but also because they are possible vectors of the avian influenza virus, H5N1.


Rey, B., Halsey, L.G., Dolmazon, V., Rouanet, J-L., Roussel, D., Handrich, Y., Butler, P.J. and Duchamp, C. 2008. Long-term fasting decreases mitochondrial avian UCP-mediated oxygen consumption in hypometabolic king penguins. Am. J. Physiol 295, R92-R100.

Pelletier, D., Guillemette, M., Grandbois, J-M. and Butler, P.J. 2008. To fly or not to fly: high flight costs in a large sea duck do not imply an expensive lifestyle. Proc. Roy. Soc. 275, 2117-2124.

White, C.R., Terblanche, J.S., Kabat, A.P., Blackburn, T.M., Chown, S.L. and Butler, P.J. 2008. Allometric scaling of maximum metabolic rate: the influence of temperature. Func. Ecol. 22, 616-623

Portugal, S.J., Thorpe, S.K.S., Green, J.A., Myatt, J.P. and Butler, P.J. 2009. Testing the use/disuse hypothesis: pectoral and leg muscle changes in captive barnacle geese Branta leucopsis during wing moult. J. exp. Biol. 212, 2403-2410.

Bourouiba, L., Jianhong Wu, Newman, S., Takekawa, J., Natdorj, T., Batbayar, N., Bishop, C. M., Hawkes, L.A., Butler, P.J. and Wikelski, M. 2010. Spatial dynamics of bar-headed geese migration in the context of H5N1. J. Roy. Soc. Interface 7, 1627-1639

White, C.R., Grémillet, D., Green, J.A., Martin, G.R. and Butler, P.J. 2011. Metabolic rate throughout the annual cycle reveals the demands of an Arctic existence in great cormorants. Ecology, 92, 475-486.

Hawkes, L.A., Balachandran, S., Nyambayar, B., Butler, P.J., Frappell, P.B., Milsom, W.K., Tseveenmyadag, N., Newman, S., Scott, G.R., Sathiyaselvam, P., Takekawa, J.T., Wikelski, M. and Bishop, C.M.2011. The trans-Himalayan flights of bar-headed geese (Anser indicus). PNAS 108, 9516-9519.