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5 December 2013 11:26 am ,
Vol. 342 ,
Dyslexia, a learning disability that hinders reading, hasn't been associated with deficits in vision, hearing, or...
Exotic, elusive, and dangerous, snakes have fascinated humankind for millennia. They can be hard to find, yet their...
Researchers have sequenced and analyzed the first two snake genomes, which represent two evolutionary extremes. The...
Snake venoms are remarkably complex mixtures that can stun or kill prey within minutes. But more and more researchers...
At age 30, Dutch biologist Freek Vonk has built up a respectable career as a snake scientist. But in his home country,...
Since arriving on the island of Guam in the 1940s, the brown tree snake ( Boiga irregularis ) has extirpated native...
An animal rights group known as the Nonhuman Rights Project filed lawsuits in three New York courts this week in an...
Researchers have been hot on the trail of the elusive Denisovans, a type of ancient human known only by their DNA and...
- 5 December 2013 11:26 am , Vol. 342 , #6163
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ScienceShot: Bird Flies 10,000 Kilometers Without Stopping
8 October 2013 2:45 pm
Talk about a long flight. The Alpine swift (Tachymarptis melba) can remain on the wing for more than 6 months, a new study suggests. These 20-centimeter-long, insect-eating birds breed in mountains ranging from southern Europe to the Himalayas. In 2011, researchers strapped tiny instrument packages on six swifts to track their activity during their winter migration to western Africa. Those instruments measured the intensity of light (which, by detecting sunrise and sunset, allowed researchers to infer each bird’s latitude and longitude) and used accelerometers to gauge the animals’ activity level during a 3.2-second window every 4 minutes, day or night. The team recovered three of the sensor-laden swifts in spring 2012, when the birds returned to Europe for the nesting season. Analyses revealed that the swifts never settled to roost while in Africa, not even to rest after their 2000-kilometer migration, the researchers report today in Nature Communications. At night, even though the birds' body position didn't change very much, their activity level suggested they were gliding, not resting on a perch—which strongly suggests that the birds were catching a bit of shuteye while aloft. During the course of their African jaunt, and as much as 200 days spent aloft, the birds likely flew a total of 10,000 kilometers, the researchers estimate. Stretched into a straight line, that distance is about one-fourth of the way around Earth’s equator.