Go up 35,000 feet in an airliner and it’s misery—your nose gets all dried out, your ears pop, and now they’re charging $9 for a Jack and soda. All laughable plights compared to what the bar-headed goose endures in its migration over the Himalayas, where it hits altitudes of 26,000 feet, all without the luxuries of pressure control and complimentary peanuts. But how on Earth (or far above Earth) does the goose’s body cope with so little oxygen?
To find out, University of Texas at Austin physiologist Julia York went above and beyond, raising goose chicks to gain their trust before training them to fly in a wind tunnel under low oxygen conditions. To measure physiological signals like heart rate, she had them wear face masks and little backpacks, and found that they deploy clever adaptations when flying at extreme altitudes.
To learn more, including the understandable difficulties of getting geese to fly in wind tunnels, take a look at the video above.