Top Three Paper: Organ Plasticity in Migratory Swainson's Thrushes

Lauren Goertzen Butler University
Faculty Sponsor(s): Shelley Etnier Butler University
Migrating birds are a common sight during the spring and fall (Cornell, 2007). Recent research has revealed that organs in birds have plasticity, meaning they change in size to prepare for migration (Piersma, 1999). Common trends seem to be that the pectoral muscles and heart increase in mass, while the organs of the digestive tract decrease in mass (Piersma, 1998). These changes power flight and decrease the weight birds must carry during their long flights. This study examined plasticity in Swainson Thrushes (Catharus ustulatus) during their migration through Indianapolis. Birds were collected as part of the Butler University Bird Strike Project. Their masses were recorded, and the pectoral muscle, heart, liver, intestine, gizzard, and right kidney were removed and weighed. The lengths of the body, gizzard, and intestine were recorded as well. Differences in organ size were analyzed between the spring and fall. The overall body mass, pectoral muscle, intestine, and liver were heavier during the fall. The intestine was longer in the fall, while body length was longer in the spring. This study also examined relative organ size between the spring and fall. The relative masses of the liver and intestine were heavier in the fall. The relative length of the body was longer in the spring, while the relative length of the intestine was longer in the fall. In the future, birds out of migration will be studied and compared to birds in this study to determine the degree of plasticity of these organs.
Competitive Paper--All Disciplines (includes an Oral Presentation)
Competitive Paper (includes an Oral Presentation)

When & Where

12:30 PM
Atherton Union Reilly Room