Rete Mirabile

I love learning something new! On my drive in to work today, I was listening to National Public Radio, as is my custom, and I got to hear Bird Note, a 2 minute podcast that is a weekly staple of some NPR stations. I always look forward to their segments because I learn so much about birds that I never knew before.

This week’s topic was rete mirabile, or “wonderful net”, an adaptation that I didn’t know existed before this moment. It’s a net of arteries and veins that are close together and provide a temperature exchange, in this case between the warm blood coming from a bird’s heart and the cold blood coming from its feet. This is why birds’ feet don’t freeze. Their temperature tends to stay pretty close to the ambient temperature, and therefore they remain quite comfortable. This is why you will never see a bird wearing a pair of Uggs.

If your NPR station doesn’t carry Bird Note, I strongly encourage you to talk them into it. In the meantime, you can listen to their podcasts here.

Now I’m going to spend a few minutes picturing birds in Uggs, and wondering why I never wondered why birds’ feet don’t freeze. I sure wish I had this adaptation for my feet! They pretty much feel like two blocks of ice from now until May.

Stay warm!

nofl_rete_mirable_490

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