, Volume 158, Issue 2, pp 165-173

Comparative aspects of fibre types, areas, and capillary supply in the pectoralis muscle of some passerine birds with differing migratory behaviour

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Fibre types, fibre areas and capillary supply in the pectoralis muscle of fifteen passerines with four different patterns of migratory behaviour have been studied. The predominant fibre type was a fast-twitch oxidative-glycolytic which was the only fibre type present in all species, except in the robin and the blackbird where a fast fibre with intermediate oxidative capacity and a fast glycolytic fibre were also found. There was a significant difference in fibre areas between birds with different migratory strategies, with the long-distance migratory group having the smallest fibres. This also led to higher capillary densities, shorter diffusion distances and, consequently, more capillaries around the fibres relative to fibre area in this group. This indicates an adaptation in the morphology of the pectoralis muscle to differences in migration strategies. In the robin, the proportion of the intermediate fibre was significantly greater during the breeding season than during migration. Seasonal differences in fibre areas and capillary supply within a species were also seen, but no definite trends were detectable.