Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Scientists Identify Part Of Hummingbird's Tiny Bird Brain That Helps It Hover

Date:
December 1, 2006
Source:
University of Alberta
Summary:
University of Alberta researchers have pinpointed a section in the tiny hummingbird's brain that may be responsible for its unique ability to stay stationary mid-air and hover.

Hummingbird genera Doryfera.
Credit: Image courtesy of University of Alberta

University of Alberta researchers have pinpointed a section in the tiny hummingbird's brain that may be responsible for its unique ability to stay stationary mid-air and hover.

Related Articles


"This was a very exciting moment for us," said Dr. Doug Wong-Wylie, Canada Research Chair in Behavioural and Systems Neuroscience and psychology professor at the U of A. "As soon as we looked at these specimens it was obvious that something was different in the hummingbirds' brains than other species."

Wong-Wylie and Dr. Andrew Iwaniuk, also from the Department of Psychology in the Faculty of Science, compared hummingbird brains to 28 other bird species, obtained from the National Museum of Natural History, the Field Museum of Natural History, and the Louisiana State University Museum of Natural Science. Hummingbirds are well known for their wing speed and ability to hover and fly forward and backward with more precision than a helicopter. It is critical that the hummingbird remain perfectly still as it feeds itself while darting in and out of flower blossoms with pinpoint accuracy. The bird must be able to maintain a stable position space, despite the fact that their wings are beating 75 times per second and that disruptive effects such as wind gusts could throw them off.

Much work has been done on the hummingbirds' physiological make up--such as its enlarged heart, high metabolic rate and specialized wing kinematics--but nothing has been done on the neural specializations of the bird.

"Part of the reason this type of work hasn't been done before is because of access to the birds," said Iwaniuk. "In Canada especially they tend to be uncommon, they come from exotic locales and they are not easy to catch, so we were very fortunate to be able to study the specimens we did."

The scientists found that a specific nuclei--one that detects any movement of the entire visual world--was two to five times bigger in the hummingbird than in any other species, relative to brain size. The hummingbird's brain is smaller than a fingertip. "We reasoned that this nucleus helps the hummingbird stay stationary in space, even while they're flying," said Wong-Wylie. "These birds must have a good optomotor response considering they are stationary 90 per cent of the time. This specific nuclei is likely responsible for that."

Wong-Wylie and Iwaniuk plan to continue this line of research and have hummingbirds track visual motion while watching the nucleus to see how it reacts.

This research is published early online in "The Journal of Comparative Neurology" and will come out in its print edition in January.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Alberta. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Alberta. "Scientists Identify Part Of Hummingbird's Tiny Bird Brain That Helps It Hover." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 December 2006. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/11/061129151300.htm>.
University of Alberta. (2006, December 1). Scientists Identify Part Of Hummingbird's Tiny Bird Brain That Helps It Hover. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/11/061129151300.htm
University of Alberta. "Scientists Identify Part Of Hummingbird's Tiny Bird Brain That Helps It Hover." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/11/061129151300.htm (accessed November 28, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Friday, November 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

New Dinosaur Species Found in Museum Collection

New Dinosaur Species Found in Museum Collection

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Nov. 27, 2014) A British palaeontologist has discovered a new species of dinosaur while studying fossils in a Canadian museum. Pentaceratops aquilonius was related to Triceratops and lived at the end of the Cretaceous Period, around 75 million years ago. Jim Drury has more. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Classic Hollywood Memorabilia Goes Under the Hammer

Classic Hollywood Memorabilia Goes Under the Hammer

Reuters - Entertainment Video Online (Nov. 26, 2014) The iconic piano from "Casablanca" and the Cowardly Lion suit from "The Wizard of Oz" fetch millions at auction. Sara Hemrajani reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Pet Dogs to Be Used in Anti-Ageing Trial

Pet Dogs to Be Used in Anti-Ageing Trial

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Nov. 26, 2014) Researchers in the United States are preparing to discover whether a drug commonly used in human organ transplants can extend the lifespan and health quality of pet dogs. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
From Popcorn To Vending Snacks: FDA Ups Calorie Count Rules

From Popcorn To Vending Snacks: FDA Ups Calorie Count Rules

Newsy (Nov. 25, 2014) The US FDA is announcing new calorie rules on Tuesday that will require everywhere from theaters to vending machines to include calorie counts. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins