Fly So High
Friday, March 05, 2010 | Author: eventer79
Friday Fun Fact!

You are already experts on counter-current exchange and the way in which it allows efficient exchange of heat from veins to arteries.  It also allows animals which operate in a  low-oxygen environment to maximize the amount of oxygen in the blood using the same principle of running oxygen rich blood in parallel and opposite to oxygen poor blood in order to exchange the gas across vessel walls.

This is a really big deal if you are, say, a migrating bar-headed goose (right).  These striking birds fly at 29,000 feet, confidently flapping over the peaks of the Himalayas.  We're talking an altitude where the air is so thin, helicopters can't even fly.  They need these special physiological adaptations just to get to the other side of that inconveniently placed mountain range.

While these geese are certainly the trophy-winners at altitude, they are not the only high flyers out there.  An airliner once struck a mallard at 21,000 feet above Nevada.  Evidence of pintail ducks and black-tailed godwits have been found at 16,400 feet on a Himalayan glacier.  Even the tiny, delicate Monarch butterfly has been sighted at 11,000 feet up in the air.

Next time you see migrating critters passing overhead, take a moment to appreciate what it takes to get them there and the astounding achievements of which they are capable without even flinching.

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4 comments:

On March 5, 2010 at 2:27 PM , Frizzle said...

Maybe they just have teeny-tiny oxygen tanks. ;-)

 
On March 5, 2010 at 2:40 PM , lifeshighway said...

I have never seen that variety of goose before. They are beautiful.

 
On March 5, 2010 at 2:59 PM , Anything Fits a Naked Man said...

It's so mind blowing, isn't it? I am a big fan of the fowl community, and these migration stories just never cease to astound me!! Thanks for sharing this!

 
On March 5, 2010 at 3:46 PM , eventer79 said...

Frizzle! Don't ruin my story, shizzle! No one is supposed to know that weensy detail!