As regular CFZ-watchers will know, for some time Corinna has been doing a column for Animals & Men and a regular segment on On The Track... particularly about out-of-place birds and rare vagrants. There seem to be more and more bird stories from all over the world hitting the news these days so, to make room for them all - and to give them all equal and worthy coverage - she has set up this new blog to cover all things feathery and Fortean.

Thursday, 5 September 2019

Slowed metabolism helps migrating geese soar

Date:  September 3, 2019
Source: eLife

Researchers have shed new light on how some geese can fly high for long periods of time, according to a study published today in eLife.

The team collected the first ever cardiorespiratory measurements of bar-headed geese flying in a wind tunnel at a simulated altitude of 9,000m. They discovered that the animals are able to maintain flight in these low-oxygen conditions via a reduction in their metabolism.

Bar-headed geese are famed for migratory flight at extreme altitudes, having been directly tracked flying as high as 7,290m, and anecdotally reported reaching 9,000m. Previous research suggests these birds have several adaptations that allow them to maximise their oxygen usage at high altitudes, such as the ability to deliver oxygen efficiently to individual cells. But until now, no studies have comprehensively measured the physiology of bar-headed geese during flight in low-oxygen conditions, partly because there are few wind tunnels in the world suitable to carry out such experiments.

To address this gap in our knowledge, a research team from the University of British Columbia (UBC), Vancouver, Canada, imprinted a flock of bar-headed geese born and raised at sea-level, and trained them to fly in a wind tunnel. The group was led by Jessica Meir, a postdoctoral researcher in Bill Milsom's lab at UBC at the time the study was carried out, along with Julia York, an undergraduate researcher, currently a PhD candidate at the University of Texas at Austin, US.

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