January 14, 2010 | David F. Coppedge

Arctic Tern Maintains World Record Title

The arctic tern makes a marathoner look like a wimp.  This little bird has been confirmed as the migratory bird with the longest route, flying annually from pole to pole.  A team of international scientists obtained the results by using an implanted geolocator on several birds, and tracking their actual path.  The story is told by PhysOrg and the BBC News.
    “Albatrosses, godwits, and sooty shearwaters all undertake epic journeys,” the BBC said, “But none can quite match the Arctic tern’s colossal trip.”  They found that half the birds flew along South America on the way down, and others followed the coast of Africa, but all returned northward the same way.
    The team was surprised to find the birds following an S-curve home when flying north.  National Geographic reported that this makes their migration twice as long as previously thought.  The scientists figured that the S-curve allows the birds to conserve energy when flying over the trackless Atlantic Ocean by riding the prevailing winds.  The curvy route, even though thousands of miles longer, is actually more energy efficient.
    The round trip is about 70,000 kilometers (43,000 miles).  An average arctic tern, weighing only 3.5 ounces, will fly “the equivalent of three trips to the moon and back over its lifetime.” 

Aren’t you glad there are still some scientists left who stick to empirical observations? (compare next entry).  This is amazing.  The team is to be congratulating for miniaturizing the electronics to the point of making this kind of difficult observation possible.  And just think: they didn’t even have to make up any evolutionary story to go with it.  The only mention of evolution was Revolution: the devices are “revolutionising our understanding of migration patterns,” the articles said.
    Speaking of miniaturization, think of all the systems that God had to pack into 3.5 ounces.  Navigation systems.  Fuel systems.  Remote sensing systems.  Power systems.  Stabilization systems.  And much more: all these have to be integrated and synchronized, so that the birds arrive at their feeding grounds on time.  Oh, and then there is the system that allows them to reproduce themselves in little round packages that hatch and know exactly how to do what their parents do.  Sometimes God does overkill challenging the futile speculations of denialists (see next entry).

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Categories: Amazing Facts, Birds

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