Frigatebirds Can Sleep While Flying

Posted: Aug 5 2016, 7:01am CDT | by , Updated: Aug 5 2016, 7:21am CDT, in News | Latest Science News


Birds Sleep in Flight Without Dying
Frigatebirds reaches a wingspan of over two metres. They are excellent gliders and can cover several hundred kilometers a day. Credit: B. Voirin
  • Birds engage in all types of sleep in flight

Scientists have found that frigate birds engage in sleep sessions during their flight.

Birds can sleep during their flight patterns. This is what scientists have found so far. An international group of researchers found that the brain waves of frigate birds showed that they dozed off midflight. This could be via one hemisphere being turned off or both for that matter.

The study was very interesting for the way it elucidated the nature of frigate birds. Although these birds could go to sleep at the drop of a hat, they actually slept less than 60 minutes during the day. 

This was a mere fraction of the time they spent sleeping while perched on land. How exactly these birds get by on so little sleep remains an enigma. It is a riddle the scientists are still busy trying to solve.

Some swifts, sandpipers, songbirds and seabirds tend to fly for days, weeks and months on end as they travel around the globe. It was assumed by scientists that they probably slept midflight. Otherwise how could they stay sane and functioning while carrying out such a strenuous task. 

Sleep loss does seem to have an adverse effect on overall performance. The main question that needs to be answered is how a bird is able to sleep while in the midst of its journey without colliding with various objects in the sky.

It may even fall down to the ground due to this dozing off. One strategy the bird uses is to switch off one hemisphere of its brain. This was seen in mallard ducks on land.

They keep one eye open in order to be wary of any predators in the vicinity. Even dolphins manage to do this trick. One hemisphere is turned off while the other one is on. 

Birds tend to cheat and skimp on sleep. They get away with this ruse which doesn’t work in humans. Everything was a matter of speculation until avian brain waves were measured during their flight in the sky.

A small device called a flight data recorder was used for this purpose. The main birds that got experimented on were frigate birds. While during the daytime, these birds remained awake for foraging purposes, during the night time they tended to switch their brain waves for a few minutes time after time.

They sometimes switched off one hemisphere and at other times switched off both hemispheres. Yet they were vigilant of any danger in the environment.

There were even bouts of REM sleep in the frigate birds. They slept a total of 42 minutes daily. Thus being asleep definitely didn’t mean they skimped on focused attention.

The findings of this research got published in a new paper in the journal Nature Communications.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/20" rel="author">Sumayah Aamir</a>
Sumayah Aamir (Google+) has deep experience in analyzing the latest trends.




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