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27 November 2013 12:59 pm ,
Vol. 342 ,
The new head of the National Center for Science Education promises to "fight the good fight" against attacks on...
Analyses of the H7N9 strains isolated from four new cases show that the virus is evolving rapidly, heightening anxiety...
In 2009, Jack Szostak shared a Nobel Prize for his part in discovering the role of telomeres, the end bits of...
Science has exposed a thriving academic black market in China involving shady agencies, corrupt scientists, and...
Paper-selling agencies flourish in the aura of reputable businesses. For some scientists, it may be difficult to tell...
Data collected by satellites and floating probes have chronicled a 2-decade rise in the temperature and thickness of a...
Cholesterol, the artery-clogging molecule that contributes to cardiovascular disease, has another nasty trick up its...
Until recently, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) kept its plans for its $70 million portion of the...
- 27 November 2013 12:59 pm , Vol. 342 , #6162
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Video: How Hummingbirds Weather the Storm
17 July 2012 7:15 pm
Hummingbirds are the acrobats of the avian family—flapping their wings more than 45 times a second, they hover forward, backward, and even upside down. But their mid-air moves are energy exhaustive, and they must feast on nectar at least once a day, even in severe weather, or they will perish. So when a storm rolls in, how does this tiny bird fare when being pummeled by heavy rain drops that can collectively feel like 38% of its body weight? Quite well, according to a study published online today in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Similar to experiments conducted on mosquitoes earlier this summer, researchers subjected five male Anna's hummingbirds (Calypte anna) to light, moderate, and heavy rain conditions in the lab, and then analyzed their flight responses with high-speed video (seen above). They found that the birds were barely affected by light and moderate rain, but that they had to take on a completely different body posture to maintain aerial control under heavy rain, shifting their bodies and tails horizontally, beating their wings faster, and reducing their wings' angle of motion. The researchers found the position change paradoxical at first because each bird exposed more of its back to the incoming rain. But further investigation revealed that this position may reduce the amount of drops hitting the bird's wings, which helps keep it more stable in the air. The researchers also found that the hummingbird's water-resistant feathers absorbed 50% of the impact from the heavy falling drops, helping the animal stay light in flight, and in control no matter the weather.
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