Albatrosses, of the biological family Diomedeidae, are large seabirds allied to the procellariids, storm-petrels and diving-petrels in the order Procellariiformes. They range widely in the Southern Ocean and the North Pacific.
Short tailed Albatross , Source: Wikipedia, DOR 16/09/2012

I read that albatrosses can stay airborne for up to a decade and that they can cycle brain activity between hemispheres. How do they do this feat, and how did they evolve this ability?

Possible points to consider: immune system, predation, cycling solar output, weather, seasons...

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    $\begingroup$ Could you give a reference as to where you read this? It's interesting! $\endgroup$ – Rory M Sep 26 '12 at 10:26
  • $\begingroup$ @RoryM I heard about it in the great IMAX movie Legends of Flight (2010). Subsequently, I felt compelled to at least verify this online. Indeed, very interesting! $\endgroup$ – Lorenz Lo Sauer Sep 27 '12 at 9:53
  • $\begingroup$ Albatrosses drink seawater; without this ability they could not be sea-bound for long periods of time. Regarding sleeping in the flight, I find this article convincing onlinemathlearning.com/animalfacts-albatross.html $\endgroup$ – Andrei Sep 27 '12 at 20:24

I'm not really inside the field but few weeks ago I noticed a Plos One article that was dealing with this. Indeed albatross can fly for thousands of miles and this is possible at no mechanical cost, because they use a dynamic way of flight that takes the energy from wind (dynamic soaring) (ref-1). Their muscle-skeletal system further evolved so that no energy is required to keep open the wing.

In addition, when foraging, they minimize diving and landing activities because they follow Killer Whales, so that food is always in proximity. (ref-2) Very smart birds.

ref-1 Sachs et al., Plos One 2012

ref-2 Sakamato et al., Plos One 2009 both references are open access.

  • $\begingroup$ That article on dynamic soaring is fantastic. $\endgroup$ – Hanno Fietz Jan 4 '13 at 10:38

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