The material properties and morphologies of the modified integumentary organs of birds (the keratinous bills, claws and feathers) have evolved to withstand the variety of mechanical stresses imposed by their interaction with the environment. These stresses are likely to vary temporally in seasonal environments and may also differ between the sexes as a result of behavioural dimorphism. Here we investigate the morphology and material properties of the claws of male and female Svalbard ptarmigan (Lagopus muta hyperborea) during the summer and winter using nanoindentation. Despite differences in locomotor demands between the sexes and pronounced seasonal differences in environmental conditions, like ground substrate, ambient temperature and day length, there was no significant difference in Young?s modulus or hardness between the seasons for each sex. However, when comparing males and females, female claws were significantly harder than those of males and both sexes had significantly wider claws during winter. We propose that wider claws may follow winter claw moulting as the claws are regrown and form an important part of the ptarmigan?s snowshoe-like foot that is an adaptation to locomotion on snow. Future work focusing on growth rates and more broad measures of material properties in both captive and wild birds is required to determine the extent of seasonal and sex differences in the material properties of their keratinous structures.
Many vertebrates are challenged by either chronic or acute episodes of low oxygen availability in their natural environments. Brain function is especially vulnerable to the effects of hypoxia and can be irreversibly impaired by even brief periods of low oxygen supply. This review describes recent research on physiological mechanisms that have evolved in certain vertebrate species to cope with brain hypoxia. Four model systems are considered: freshwater turtles that can survive for months trapped in frozen-over lakes, arctic ground squirrels that respire at extremely low rates during winter hibernation, seals and whales that undertake breath-hold dives lasting minutes to hours, and naked mole-rats that live in crowded burrows completely underground for their entire lives. These species exhibit remarkable specializations of brain physiology that adapt them for acute or chronic episodes of hypoxia. These specializations may be reactive in nature, involving modifications to the catastrophic sequelae of oxygen deprivation that occur in non-tolerant species, or preparatory in nature, preventing the activation of those sequelae altogether. Better understanding of the mechanisms used by these hypoxia-tolerant vertebrates will increase appreciation of how nervous systems are adapted for life in specific ecological niches as well as inform advances in therapy for neurological conditions such as stroke and epilepsy.
Arctic homeotherms counter challenges at high latitudes using a combination of seasonal adjustments in pelage/plumage, fat deposition, and intricate thermoregulatory adaptations. However, there are still gaps in our understanding of their thermal responses to cold, particularly in Arctic birds. Here, we have studied the potential use of local heterothermy (i.e., tissue cooling that can contribute to significantly lower heat loss rate) in Svalbard ptarmigan (Lagopus muta hyperborea) - the world's northernmost landbird. We exposed birds kept under simulated Svalbard photoperiod to low ambient temperatures (Ta; between 0 and -30°C) during three seasons (early winter, late winter, summer), whilst recording resting metabolic rate (RMR), core temperature (Tc) and several cutaneous temperatures. Leg skin temperature varied the most, but still only by up to ~15°C, whereas body trunk skin temperature changed
Arctic homeotherms counter challenges at high latitudes using a combination of seasonal adjustments in pelage/plumage, fat deposition and intricate thermoregulatory adaptations. However, there are still gaps in our understanding of their thermal responses to cold, particularly in Arctic birds. Here, we have studied the potential use of local heterothermy (i.e. tissue cooling that can contribute to significantly lower heat loss rate) in Svalbard ptarmigan (Lagopus muta hyperborea) - the world's northernmost land bird. We exposed birds kept under simulated Svalbard photoperiod to low ambient temperatures (Ta; between 0 and -30°C) during three seasons (early winter, late winter, summer), whilst recording resting metabolic rate (RMR), core temperature (Tc) and several cutaneous temperatures. Leg skin temperature varied the most, but still only by up to ~15°C, whereas body trunk skin temperature changed
To characterise the functional morphology of the nasal microcirculation in humans in comparison with reindeer as a means of testing the hypothesis that the luminous red nose of Rudolph, one of the most well known reindeer pulling Santa Claus's sleigh, is due to the presence of a highly dense and rich nasal microcirculation.
Tromsø, Norway (near the North Pole), and Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
Five healthy human volunteers, two adult reindeer, and a patient with grade 3 nasal polyposis.
Architecture of the microvasculature of the nasal septal mucosa and head of the inferior turbinates, kinetics of red blood cells, and real time reactivity of the microcirculation to topical medicines.
Similarities between human and reindeer nasal microcirculation were uncovered. Hairpin-like capillaries in the reindeers' nasal septal mucosa were rich in red blood cells, with a perfused vessel density of 20 (SD 0.7) mm/mm(2). Scattered crypt or gland-like structures surrounded by capillaries containing flowing red blood cells were found in human and reindeer noses. In a healthy volunteer, nasal microvascular reactivity was demonstrated by the application of a local anaesthetic with vasoconstrictor activity, which resulted in direct cessation of capillary blood flow. Abnormal microvasculature was observed in the patient with nasal polyposis.
The nasal microcirculation of reindeer is richly vascularised, with a vascular density 25% higher than that in humans. These results highlight the intrinsic physiological properties of Rudolph's legendary luminous red nose, which help to protect it from freezing during sleigh rides and to regulate the temperature of the reindeer's brain, factors essential for flying reindeer pulling Santa Claus's sleigh under extreme temperatures.
Cites: Am J Physiol. 1985 Nov;249(5 Pt 2):R617-234061681