Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Arctic birds: Rock ptarmigans stay fit when fat

Experiments using miniature treadmills have revealed how an Arctic-dwelling bird is superbly adapted for life in extreme conditions.
The rock ptarmigan - a chicken-like bird that lives year-round on the Arctic ice and tundra - is just as fit when it has fattened up for the winter.
The birds, also known as snow chickens, can double in weight.
Scientists presented the results at the Society for Experimental Biology's annual conference in Salzburg, Austria.
The mini-treadmill set-up allowed the researchers to monitor the birds as they ran, and to measure how much oxygen they consumed.
Lead researcher John Lees from the University of Manchester explained that he was interested in the "energetic cost of movement, because it's fundamental to survival in the Arctic".
He and his colleagues hope to understand more about how species that live in the far north will be affected as the temperature of their habitat increases.
Mr Lees and his colleague Dr Jonathan Codd worked on their Arctic project in Svalbard in the far north of Norway. With the help of their Norwegian colleagues, the scientists set up a "little gym" for their ptarmigans, and kept the room at a chilly 6C to make sure the birds were comfortable.
"They're natural born athletes," Mr Lees told BBC Nature.
"As soon as you put them on the treadmill, they start to run."
By measuring how much oxygen the birds consumed and how much carbon dioxide they produced, he and team were able work out exactly how much energy the birds used as they ran.

No comments:

Post a Comment

You only need to enter your comment once! Comments will appear once they have been moderated. This is so as to stop the would-be comedian who has been spamming the comments here with inane and often offensive remarks. You know who you are!

Related Posts with Thumbnails