On fuel choice and water balance during migratory bird flights

Cecilia Giulivi, Jon Ramsey


It has been proposed that water loss in flight of migratory birds under high evaporative conditions can be offset by the production of water through increased protein catabolism.  Indeed, oxidation of protein may supply 7-times more water/kJ than fat. However, the lack of a relative increase in protein catabolism over that of fat during long flights is indicative of alternative processes that may take place in birds under long and strenuous flights.  Among them, release of stress hormones (which increase both protein and fat catabolism) and increased protein catabolism triggered by increased oxidative damage to muscle proteins elicited by phosphorylating mitochondria, processes not necessarily linked to water deprivation.


migratory birds, fat, glycogen, water, fuel, exercise



Altshuler, DL, Dudley, R. The physiology and biomechanics of avian flight at high altitude. Integrative and Comparative Biology 46: 62-71, 2006.http://icb.oxfordjournals.org/content/46/1/62.abstract


Bordel, R, Haase, E. Influence of flight on protein catabolism, especially myofilament breakdown, in homing pigeons. Journal of Comparative Physiology B-Biochemical Systemic and Environmental Physiology 170: 51-8, 2000.://WOS:000085388800007

Delp, MD, Duan, C. Composition and size of type I, IIA, IID/X, and IIB fibers and citrate synthase activity of rat muscle. Journal of applied physiology 80: 261-70, 1996.http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8847313

Drent, R, Eichhorn, G, Flagstad, A, Van der Graaf, A, Litvin, K, Stahl, J. Migratory connectivity in Arctic geese: spring stopovers are the weak links in meeting targets for breeding. Journal of Ornithology 148: 501-14, 2007.http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10336-007-0223-4


Evans, WJ, Cannon, JG. The metabolic effects of exercise-induced muscle damage. Exerc Sport Sci Rev 19: 99-125, 1991.http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1936096

Gerson, AR, Guglielmo, CG. Flight at low ambient humidity increases protein catabolism in migratory birds. Science 333: 1434-6, 2011.http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21903811


Giladi, I, Pinshow, B. Evaporative and excretory water loss during free flight in pigeons. Journal of Comparative Physiology B-Biochemical Systemic and Environmental Physiology 169: 311-8, 1999.://WOS:000081834300010

Giulivi, C, Boveris, A, Cadenas, E. The steady-state concentrations of oxygen radicals in mitochondria. 1999, p. 77-102.

Hohenegger, M, Laminger, U, Om, P, Sadjak, A, Gutmann, K, Vermes, M. Metabolic effects of water deprivation. Journal of clinical chemistry and clinical biochemistry Zeitschrift fur klinische Chemie und klinische Biochemie 24: 277-82, 1986.http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3734698

Jenni-Eiermann, S, Jenni, L, Kvist, A, Lindstrom, A, Piersma, T, Visser, GH. Fuel use and metabolic response to endurance exercise: a wind tunnel study of a long-distance migrant shorebird. Journal of Experimental Biology 205: 2453-60, 2002.://WOS:000177855700010

Johnson, F, Giulivi, C. Superoxide dismutases and their impact upon human health. Mol Aspects Med 26: 340-52, 2005.http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16099495

Konig, D, Neubauer, O, Nics, L, Kern, N, Berg, A, Bisse, E, Wagner, KH. Biomarkers of exercise-induced myocardial stress in relation to inflammatory and oxidative stress. Exerc Immunol Rev 13: 15-36, 2007.http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18198658

Kvist, A, Lindstrom, A, Green, M, Piersma, T, Visser, GH. Carrying large fuel loads during sustained bird flight is cheaper than expected. Nature 413: 730-2, 2001.://WOS:000171608000043

Lindstrom, A, Kvist, A, Piersma, T, Dekinga, A, Dietz, MW. Avian pectoral muscle size rapidly tracks body mass changes during flight, fasting and fuelling. J Exp Biol 203: 913-9, 2000.http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10667974

Morrison, SD. A method for the calculation of metabolic water. The Journal of physiology 122: 399-402, 1953.http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/13118549


Odum, EP. Adipose tissue in migratory birds. Handbook Physiol 5: 37-43, 1965.://BIOSIS:PREV19664700066189

Pennycuick, CJ. Towards an optimal strategy for bird flight research. Journal of Avian Biology 29: 449-57, 1998.://WOS:000078186100011

Piersma, T, Lindstrom, A. Rapid reversible changes in organ size as a component of adaptive behaviour. Trends in Ecology & Evolution 12: 134-8, 1997.://WOS:A1997WN30300005

Uchiyama, S, Tsukamoto, H, Yoshimura, S, Tamaki, T. Relationship between oxidative stress in muscle tissue and weight-lifting-induced muscle damage. Pflugers Arch 452: 109-16, 2006.http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16402246

Weis-Fogh, T. Energetics and Aerodynamics of Flapping Flight a Synthesis. 48-72, 1976.://BIOSIS:PREV197612085161

Widdowson , EM. Biological implications of body composition. In: Body composition in animals and man Washington: National Academy of Sciences Press, 1968, p. 71-86.

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.18103/ibr.v0i1.58


  • There are currently no refbacks.