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Hot and cold hummingbirds: The ecology, physiology, and genes of cold endotherms

Anusha Shankar studies hummingbirds as a Rose Postdoctoral Fellow at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. She is fascinated by the idea that many endotherms are in fact heterotherms that can allow their body temperature to drop and save energy. For the past decade, she has studied hummingbirds’ various daily energy management strategies. She is now focusing on their ability to use a hibernation-like state called torpor to save energy at night. She has investigated the ecology and physiology of this ability and is currently delving into the genetic pathways involved and exploring how mitochondrial densities might change with hummingbird torpor. How can they get cold (10°C /50°F) and rewarm safely every night, without damaging organs like their hearts and brains? Moving forward, she would like to study comparative avian heterothermy on a global scale, starting by collecting data from the tropics while training biologists from the tropics. She plans to continue to integrate ecology, physiology, evolutionary perspectives, and molecular and imaging techniques to understand how heterothermic animals exist. Anusha is a National Geographic Explorer and Young Leader and a 2022 Leading Edge Fellow.

Tuesday, 12/06/22


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