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Gill et al 2009 PRSC Extreme Endurance Paper

Extreme endurance flights by landbirds crossing the Pacific Ocean: ecological corridor rather than barrier?

Mountain ranges, deserts, ice fields and oceans generally act as barriers to the movement of landdependent
animals, often profoundly shaping migration routes. We used satellite telemetry to track the
southward flights of bar-tailed godwits (Limosa lapponica baueri ), shorebirds whose breeding and nonbreeding
areas are separated by the vast central Pacific Ocean. Seven females with surgically implanted
transmitters flew non-stop 8117–11 680 km (10 153G1043 s.d.) directly across the Pacific Ocean; two
males with external transmitters flew non-stop along the same corridor for 7008–7390 km. Flight duration
ranged from 6.0 to 9.4 days (7.8G1.3 s.d.) for birds with implants and 5.0 to 6.6 days for birds with
externally attached transmitters. These extraordinary non-stop flights establish new extremes for avian
flight performance, have profound implications for understanding the physiological capabilities of
vertebrates and how birds navigate, and challenge current physiological paradigms on topics such as sleep,
dehydration and phenotypic flexibility. Predicted changes in climatic systems may affect survival rates if
weather conditions at their departure hub or along the migration corridor should change.We propose that
this transoceanic route may function as an ecological corridor rather than a barrier, providing a windassisted
passage relatively free of pathogens and predators.
Keywords: bar-tailed godwit; satellite telemetry; endurance exercise; migration; climate change; weather