Big Butt Helps Swan Survival

03/14/2011

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British researchers have been measuring the size of swans’ behinds to see if they possibly help the birds survive a long migration to the Arctic. Bewick's swans store fat in their rear to help sustain them during the journey, but their population, and maybe even their backsides, have been dwindling recently.

Read more at BBC Earth.

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Bewick's swans winter in Europe before making a 2,400-mile journey to Arctic Russia. In recent years, their numbers have fallen and scientists wonder if this is due to a shortage of food in their winter homes. Measuring the swans will help “rule” out food shortage as the reason for the decline.

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The scientists and volunteers are measuring the area between a swan’s legs and tail, where fat is stored over the winter.

"In a slim bird, the bum will look slightly concave, whereas a well-fed bird will have a double bulge,” said Julia Newth, a researcher with Britain’s Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust.

Photo Credits Matt Cardy/Getty Images (2)|David A. Northcott/CORBIS


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