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In drought, zebra finches wring water from their own fat

In drought, zebra finches wring water from their own fat

Deprived birds shown to rely less on stored proteins to quench thirst

By
6:00pm, August 31, 2016
Zebra finches

FINCH IN A PINCH  Zebra finches with no water can dodge dehydration by metabolizing body fat, a new study shows. 

Thirsty zebra finches “drink” their body fat. The songbirds are the first birds shown to get through a day without water by breaking down adipose tissue to stay hydrated, says evolutionary physiologist Ulf Bauchinger.

Two earlier tests of deprived birds summoning water from their tissues report that birds rely on protein. But zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata) coped with one-day droughts in the lab not by breaking down such tissues as muscle but with the safer choice of metabolizing fat, say Bauchinger, Joanna Rutkowska and their colleagues at Jagiellonian University in Kraków, Poland. In comfortable temperatures and humidity, the little birds (averaging 13.5 grams in weight) produced about 0.444 grams of water metabolically. That boost would have taken large amounts of fleshy moist protein, equivalent to one-third the mass of their flight muscles or three times the mass of their hearts, the

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