Ecophysiology of bird migration and stop-over behaviour

Our study site, the island of Ponza. Each spring, hundred thousands of songbirds stop here to recover from a 400-500 km non-stop flight over the Mediterranean Sea.
Preparing and weighing food for an experiment

Migration remains one of the great mysteries of animal life. Many species of birds migrate each year and cross deserts or seas where there is no food and they can’t land. Bird migration requires behavioural and physiological adaptations that are particularly complex in nocturnal migrants. These species are normally active only during the day but perform migratory flights mainly or exclusively at night. Migrants exhibit intense nocturnal activity ("Zugunruhe") during the migratory seasons, which is absent during other times of the year. The physiological mechanisms that underlie such a dramatic behavioural transition are largely unknown.

Which hormones and other physiological factors tell an organism to migrate, to interrupt migration and search for food, and to resume migration?

The Ponza Research Project is a cooperation between Leonida Fusani (Univ. and Vet. Med. Univ. Vienna), Massimiliano Cardinale (Univ. Agr. Sci. Uppsala), Claudio Carere (Univ. Paris 13 Nord), and Wolfgang Goymann (MPIO)

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Selected publications of the Ponza project

Goymann, W.; Lupi, S.; Kaiya, H.; Cardinale, M.; Fusani, L.: Ghrelin affects stopover decisions and food intake in a long-distance migrant. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 114 (8), S. 1946 - 1951 (2017) DOI

Lupi, S.; Maggini, I.; Goymann, W.; Cardinale, M.; Rojas Mora, A.; Fusani, L.: Effects of body condition and food intake on stop-over decisions in Garden Warblers and European Robins during spring migration. Journal of Ornithology 158 (4), S. 989 - 999 (2017) DOI

Skrip, M. M.; Bauchinger, U.; Goymann, W.; Fusani, L.; Cardinale, M.; Alan, R. R.; McWilliams, S. R.: Migrating songbirds on stopover prepare for, and recover from, oxidative challenges posed by long-distance flight. Ecology and Evolution 5 (15), S. 3198 - 3209 (2015) DOI

Fusani, L.; Coccon, F.; Rojas Mora, A.; Goymann, W.: Melatonin reduces migratory restlessness in Sylvia warblers during autumnal migration. Frontiers in Zoology 10, 79 (2013) DOI

Fusani, L.; Cardinale, M.; Schwabl, I.; Goymann, W.: Food availability but not melatonin affects nocturnal restlessness in a wild migrating passerine. Hormones and Behavior 59 (1), S. 187 - 192 (2011) DOI

Goymann, W.; Spina, F.; Ferri, A.; Fusani, L.: Body fat influences departure from stopover sites in migratory birds: Evidence from whole-island telemetry. Biology Letters 6 (4), S. 478 - 481 (2010) DOI

Fusani, L.; Cardinale, M.; Carere, C.; Goymann, W.: Stopover decision during migration: Physiological conditions predict nocturnal restlessness in wild passerines. Biology Letters 5 (3), S. 302 - 305 (2009) DOI

Goymann, W.; Trappschuh, M.; Fusani, L.: A gentler method to raise melatonin levels in birds. Journal of Biological Rhythms 23 (3), S. 274 - 277 (2008) DOI

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