Energy-saving technique helps hummingbirds gas their lengthy migrations


An grownup male ruby-throated hummingbird in flight. Credit: Brock and Sherri Fenton (CC BY 4.0)

Ruby-throated hummingbirds use the identical energy-conserving technique to survive in a single day fasts and construct the fats shops they should gas lengthy migrations, exhibits a research revealed in eLife.

The findings assist show a long-held suspicion amongst scientists who research hummingbirds. They additionally present new insights on the principles the birds use to find out whether or not to preserve power or stockpile fats.

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Tiny ruby-throated hummingbirds continuously eat sugary nectar to gas the fast wing actions that enable them to hover. To preserve power throughout their in a single day fasts, the birds can shift into an energy-saving mode known as torpor by reducing their physique temperature and slowing their metabolism as much as 95%.

“We wanted to know if hummingbirds use this same energy-saving mechanism to more quickly build the fat stores they’ll use to power their 5,000-kilometer migrations between their North American breeding grounds and Central American winter homes,” says first writer Erich Eberts, a Ph.D. scholar on the Welch Lab, University of Toronto Scarborough, Ontario, Canada.

To research how and when the hummingbirds deploy this energy-saving technique, Eberts and the staff measured each day modifications within the physique, fats, and lean lots of 16 ruby-throated hummingbirds throughout three intervals: The breeding season, late summer season when the birds put together emigrate, and through the birds’ typical migration interval. They additionally measured the birds’ oxygen consumption utilizing a way known as respirometry to find out after they shifted into torpor.

During the breeding season, the hummingbirds maintained lean physique lots and solely entered torpor when their fats shops fell under 5% of their physique mass. This “energy-emergency strategy” was normally deployed on nights after they went to sleep with decrease power reserves.

But within the late summer season, when the birds usually enhance their physique mass by 20% to maintain themselves over the lengthy migration, they cease utilizing the 5% threshold for coming into torpor. Instead, they enter torpor extra often and at larger ranges of fats. This permits them to preserve power and construct up fats at the same time as nights get progressively longer. “We’ve shown that hummingbirds abandon the energy-emergency strategy in the late summer and start using torpor to accumulate the fat stores they need for migration,” Eberts explains.

The authors add that studying extra about this energy-saving technique could also be essential for the conservation of ruby-throated hummingbirds and different migrating chook species that face rising stress from local weather change and habitat loss.

“Our findings that hummingbirds can use torpor to cope with different energetic challenges throughout the annual cycle are important for understanding differences in how these and other migratory animals that don’t use torpor might respond to future environmental changes in food availability and temperature,” concludes Kenneth Welch Jr., Associate Professor and Acting Chair of the Department of Biological Sciences on the University of Toronto Scarborough, and co-author of the research alongside Christopher Guglielmo, Professor on the University of Western Ontario, Canada.

Hummingbird reduces its body temperature during nightly torpor

More data:
Erich R. Eberts et al, Reversal of the adipostat management of torpor throughout migration in hummingbirds, eLife (2021). DOI: 10.7554/eLife.70062

Journal data:

Energy-saving technique helps hummingbirds gas their lengthy migrations (2021, December 14)
retrieved 14 December 2021

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