Thermal images reveal environmental effects on animals

Issued: Thu, 01 Feb 2018 12:10:00 GMT

Thermal Bird
Thermal imaging can reveal how animals are coping with their environment, while avoiding the need for capture. The study, published in Scientific Reports, found that skin temperature around the eye in the blue tit is lower in birds in poorer condition, and in birds with higher levels of stress hormones in their bloodstream. 
Blue tits were filmed at the feeding stations at the University of Glasgow’s Scottish Centre for Ecology and the Natural Environment (SCENE) at Loch Lomond. In challenging circumstances, such as during poor weather, or when food is scarce, animals need to save energy and to do so they reduce heat production. 
Challenging conditions also trigger a stress response which is associated with changes in blood flow around the body – blood is diverted to the areas with the greatest need, increasing core temperature and reducing surface temperature. So both responses lead to a lower surface temperature. And that is exactly what the thermal imaging of wild birds at feeding stations could reveal. 
Thus the thermal imaging technique could transform how biologists investigate responses of wild animals to environmental changes without having to capture and measure them which is necessary with current methods.
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