Each year, bar-headed geese migrate over the Himalayas from India, at sea level, to the Tibetan highlands in China and Mongolia. This journey includes an elevation change of more than 26,000 feet in eight to 12 hours.
“They’re the astronauts of the bird world,” said Julia York, a graduate student at the University of Texas at Austin who has been studying bar-headed geese since she was an undergraduate at the University of British Columbia.
If we can understand more about how bar-headed geese are able to thrive in oxygen-deprived conditions, there might eventually be applications for the medical treatment of people who have been deprived of oxygen, for example after having a heart attack or stroke. And while human organs can be damaged in low-oxygen conditions, the geese are able to fly for hours.
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