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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A fascinating new discovery concerning bar-headed geese

source of the image:
Photographer:Mehmet Karatay

"A Canadian researcher has discovered how bar-headed geese can fly over Mount Everest without expiring from a lack of oxygen."

"The Bar-headed Goose (Anser indicus) is a goose which breeds in Central Asia in colonies of thousands near mountain lakes.This species of goose is one of the world's highest flying birds, having been seen at up to 10,175 m (33,382 feet).The Bar-headed Goose migrates over the Himalayas to spend the winter in India, Assam, Northern Burma and the wetlands of Pakistan. It migrates up to Magadi wetlands of Gadag district of Karnataka in the southern part of India. The winter habitat of the Bar-headed Goose is on cultivation where it feeds on barley, rice and wheat, and may damage crops. The bird can fly the 1000-mile migration route in just one day as it is able to fly in jet stream(source:"

"There's been a lot of observations by people who have seen them flying above highest peaks in the Himalayas at a height of up to 9,000 metres, which is close to what commercial airplanes fly at," said Graham Scott, who did the study as part of his PhD at the University of British Columbia.

"At that height," he said, "there is only a quarter of the oxygen available at sea level. That leaves human mountaineers struggling to walk, even when breathing supplemental oxygen."

"Meanwhile, the bar-headed geese aren't just walking, but performing an activity as demanding as running a marathon, said Scott, who is originally from Kingston, Ont."

"To figure out how, Scott and collaborators at UBC and the University of Birmingham examined small samples of flight muscles from bar-headed geese that had been bred in captivity in Canada and compared them to geese that live only at low altitudes, such as barnacle, pink-footed and greylag geese. Their results are published in Wednesday's issue of Proceedings of the Royal Society B."

"The researchers discovered a number of unique features that help bar-headed geese, which routinely fly over the Himalayas during their annual migration between India and Mongolia, get better access to oxygen compared to other geese:

They have more aerobic muscle fibres.
They have more capillaries, small blood vessels that supply oxygen and fuel, surrounding their muscle fibres."

"The parts of each cell that process oxygen, called mitochondria, are closer to the cell membrane and therefore to the capillaries, speeding up the exchange of oxygen.
Graham Scott found that bar-headed geese have more aerobic muscle fibres than other geese. (Martin Dee, UBC)While some of those features, such as more capillaries surrounding the muscle fibres and the movement of mitochondria, have been observed in animals living at high altitudes or humans who have spent some time doing exercise training, the individual bar-headed geese in the study were actually born at low altitude, had never been in the mountains, and had never even flown, suggesting that their unique physiology is genetic."

"It's sort of preparing them in advance," Scott said.

"Such adaptations to high altitude do come at a cost, he added. For example, moving the mitochondria closer to the oxygen source moves them away from the areas that need the energy supplied by the mitochondria. However, Scott said further study so far suggests that the geese have ways of compensating for that."

"Otherwise, they wouldn't be able to fly as well at sea level."

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Thoughts worth thinking about

"Our subconscious minds have no sense of humor, play no jokes and cannot tell the difference between reality and an imagined thought or image. What we continually think about eventually will manifest in our lives."-Sidney Madwed

Laws alone can not secure freedom of expression; in order that every woman and man present their views without penalty, there must be spirit of tolerance in the entire population.- Albert Einstein Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. - Leo Buscaglia

A person's true wealth is the good he or she does in the world. - Mohammed

Our task must be to free ourselves... by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty. -Albert Einstein

The best way to find yourself, is to lose yourself in the service of others. - Ghandi

The unselfish effort to bring cheer to others will be the beginning of a happier life for ourselves. - Helen Keller

Aim for success, not perfection. Never give up your right to be wrong, because then you will lose the ability to learn new things and move forward with your life. Remember that fear always lurks behind perfectionism. Confronting your fears and allowing yourself the right to be human can, paradoxically, make yourself a happier and more productive person. - Dr. David M. Burns

Life is as dear to a mute creature as it is to man. Just as one wants happiness and fears pain, just as one wants to live and not die, so do other creatures. -His Holiness The Dalai Lama

Mankind's true moral test, its fundamental test (which lies deeply buried from view), consists of its attitude towards those who are at its mercy: animals. And in this respect mankind has suffered a fundamental debacle, a debacle so fundamental that all others stem from it. -

Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being

The worst sin towards our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them. That's the essence of inhumanity. -George Bernard Shaw

Ego's trick is to make us lose sight of our interdependence. That kind of ego-thought gives us a perfect justification to look out only for ourselves. But that is far from the truth. In reality we all depend on each other and we have to help each other. The husband has to help his wife, the wife has to help the husband, the mother has to help her children, and the children are supposed to help the parents too, whether they want to or not.-Gehlek Rinpoche Source: "The Best Buddhist Writing 2005 pg. 165

The hostile attitude of conquering nature ignores the basic interdependence of all things and events---that the world beyond the skin is actually an extension of our own bodies---and will end in destroying the very environment from which we emerge and upon which our whole life depends.