Can birds do it too? Evidence for convergence in evaporative water loss regulation for birds and mammals

Journal: Proceedings of the Royal Society B

Published: 2017-11-29

DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2017.1478

Affiliations: 2

Authors: 3

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Research Highlight

How budgies keep their cool

© Wild Horse Photography/Moment/Getty

© Wild Horse Photography/Moment/Getty

To keep cool on a hot day, humans sweat and dogs pant to the same extent whether it’s sticky or dry. And according to new research, this ability to actively control water loss no matter the ambient humidity is not unique to mammals.

A Curtin University–led team found that small desert birds also have a knack for managing water loss under varying and often extreme conditions.

The researchers showed that parakeets (Melopsittacus undulatus), also known as budgies, maintain constant evaporation levels along the skin and respiratory tract regardless of the ambient humidity — evidence that water loss is under active physiological control to avoids swings in heat loss and body temperature, and not simply a passive physical process.

This ability seems to have evolved independently in birds and mammals, suggesting it may be a fundamental feature of warm-bloodedness in the animal kingdom.

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  1. Proceedings of the Royal Society B (2017). doi: 10.1098/rspb.2017.1478
Institutions Share
The University of Western Australia (UWA), Australia 0.67
Curtin University, Australia 0.33