Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Bird ’breathalyzer’ helps assess migratory diet

25.11.2003


While breathalyzers help police crack down on drunk driving, a similar new device is helping a University of Rhode Island graduate student analyze the dietary changes of migrating songbirds.



Just as human breathalyzers measure an individual’s blood-alcohol level, David Podlesak says that his bird breathalyzer measures the "carbon signature" of a bird’s last meal.

"We measure the ratio of the isotopes of carbon 12 to carbon 13, and this carbon signature in their breath can tell us what the bird ate earlier in the day," said the 36-year-old Wakefield resident who is nearing completion of his doctorate.


Podlesak is the first to adapt and use the bird breathalyzer on small songbirds and to verify that the measurements are accurate. The device was created recently by Kent Hatch at Brigham Young University for use with pigeons.

The birds breathe into a small mask connected to a balloon filled with pure oxygen. As the bird inhales the oxygen, it exhales carbon dioxide, replacing the oxygen in the balloon with carbon dioxide within one minute. The carbon dioxide is then analyzed for its carbon signature.

This carbon signature slowly makes its way from the bird’s breath to its blood and eventually into its feathers. Podlesak is the first to use carbon signatures in different tissues from the same bird to create a dietary timeline for migrating birds.

"The signature in the feather tells us what the bird ate on its breeding grounds a month or two ago; the signature in its red blood cells tells what it ate within the last two or three weeks; and the signature in its plasma indicates what it ate two or three days ago," Podlesak said. "If the signature is different between its feathers and its breath, that says that the bird ate something different or changed its diet and is using a different resource to fatten up on migration."

That’s an important distinction, according to Podlesak. "If birds are looking for different foods while they’re migrating -- maybe something that has more proteins or more fats -- then we need to make sure that those resources are available at popular migratory stopover sites."

Podlesak’s research is based on birds caught on Block Island, R.I., one of the major sites on the East Coast where birds stop to feed during their southward migration each fall. He captures yellow-rumped warblers, white-throated sparrows, ruby crowned kinglets, golden crowned kinglets and gray catbirds in nets, and takes breath, blood and feather samples before releasing the birds back into the wild.

His results so far have been insightful and have raised additional questions. Yellow rumped warblers, for instance, are known to primarily eat bayberry on migration. But in each of the last two years, Podlesak caught a number of warblers that ate something very different than was expected. He wonders if the birds stopped somewhere out of the ordinary or if there is an unknown migratory stopover site that provides the birds with an unusual diet.

Podlesak also discovered that some white-throated sparrows switched their diet during migration from insects and berries to corn, suggesting that the birds ate at bird feeders. This raises questions about the importance of feeders to the birds as they migrate. Podlesak hopes to answer questions about both species with additional research. Funding for his research comes from the National Science Foundation, the URI Agriculture Experiment Station, Sigma Xi, and The Nature Conservancy, which is protecting the coastal scrub habitat on Block Island where Podlesak conducts his field work.

Todd McLeish | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.uri.edu/

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Not of Divided Mind
19.01.2017 | Hertie-Institut für klinische Hirnforschung (HIH)

nachricht CRISPR meets single-cell sequencing in new screening method
19.01.2017 | CeMM Forschungszentrum für Molekulare Medizin der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New Study Will Help Find the Best Locations for Thermal Power Stations in Iceland

19.01.2017 | Earth Sciences

Not of Divided Mind

19.01.2017 | Life Sciences

Molecule flash mob

19.01.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>