Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Gone with the wind

21.10.2015

Migratory birds need less time to travel longer routes when they optimize for wind support.

Each year migratory birds travel over thousands of kilometres. In spring and autumn, billions of individuals move from colder and less productive areas across vast distances to warmer and more productive places. To do so, however, it seems that the shortest route does not necessarily grant the fastest journey. Birds can save energy and time if they use wind support.


Based on the global weather data from the past 21 years, researchers have developed a model that allows them to calculate the optimal migration routes of migratory birds. It shows that the shortest flight time is not necessarily the result of the shortest route. The model also takes into account spatial and temporal changes in wind conditions.

© http://www.bioinfo.mpg.de/flyways / Nasa/ Blue Marble

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Radolfzell Germany have calculated optimal routes in respect to wind support globally. Their research shows that birds using optimal wind conditions can save up to a quarter of travel time.

Thus birds optimising on wind support should arrive earlier and in better conditions and have higher chances of survival and reproduction. The knowledge about such optimal flyways could spread over generations in migratory species.

On their migratory journey, birds cross oceans, the highest mountains, and deserts. The arctic tern, for example, holds the world record in annual avian travel distance, where it moves between its breeding grounds in the Arctic to winter in the Antarctic. Using satellite based technology, scientists are just on the verge of unravelling these phenomena.

Scientists, led by Kamran Safi at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology have now calculated that the route with the shortest distance between two points on the globe almost never represents the fastest option. They propose that it is beneficial for migratory birds to take detours, thereby using wind support on their journeys.

"Of course the birds cannot forecast weather," says Bart Kranstauber, first author of the study. "But through natural selection or learning, it is possible that knowledge about the optimal route can spread in a species over time." This, however, only works because there are predictable patterns in the wind conditions over years

Tailwind saves energy

"Quite a few of the routes we calculated match what we know some birds actually do," explains Safi. And the models suggest that it is energetically cheaper to fly south to Africa in the autumn using a more easterly detour and to return to Europe on a westerly route, giving rise to a so-called "loop migration". This pattern matches what is known from the common cuckoo.

The birds can save up to a quarter of their time if they choose to optimise their route in respect to wind instead of simple distance. Thus, they probably would be less fatigued and have a head start when it is comes to occupying good nesting sites. This in turn can decrease mortality, reduce recovery times and overall increase reproductive output of those individuals taking the optimal routes. Travelling along optimal routes can therefore become the winning strategy through natural selection or tradition.

More than wind

Safi and his group use weather data collected from 1990 until 2010 and calculated the most efficient routes in respect to wind support for 102 departure and arrival locations in the northern hemisphere connecting to 65 locations in the southern hemisphere. And although the programme ignores all other important factors in bird migration, the results are a striking match for some known flyways.

Based on this model, the researchers want to investigate when and where bird migration deviates from the simple assumptions, adding more complexity to better understand the importance of additional factors for bird migration. "We now want to know where the model fails and why, which will help us to derive a better understanding of what actually shapes the fascinating phenomenon."

One of the still unresolved issues in bird migration is how birds navigate over such vast distances and can potentially master the task of following an optimal route.


Contact

Dr. Kamran Safi
Max Planck Institute for Ornithology (Radolfzell), Radolfzell
Phone: +49 7732 150-132

Email: ksafi@orn.mpg.de


Daniel Piechowski
Max Planck Institute for Ornithology (Radolfzell), Radolfzell
Phone: +49 7732 1501-19

Email: dpiechowski@orn.mpg.de


Original publication
B. Kranstauber, R. Weinzierl, M. Wikelski , and K. Safi

Global aerial flyways allow efficient travelling.

Ecology Letters; 19 October, 2015 (DOI: 10.1111/ele.12528)

Dr. Kamran Safi | Max Planck Institute for Ornithology (Radolfzell), Radolfzell
Further information:
https://www.mpg.de/9710378/migratory-birds-flight-routes

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Bare bones: Making bones transparent
27.04.2017 | California Institute of Technology

nachricht Link Discovered between Immune System, Brain Structure and Memory
26.04.2017 | Universität Basel

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Bare bones: Making bones transparent

27.04.2017 | Life Sciences

Study offers new theoretical approach to describing non-equilibrium phase transitions

27.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

From volcano's slope, NASA instrument looks sky high and to the future

27.04.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>