Bird Deslaination Processes

With world-wide shortages of water, there has been a great deal of attention made to ways of getting fresh water out of salt water.  One of the ways of dealing with this problem is to look at marine birds and see how they solve the problems of constantly having saline environments in which they must live, eat, and drink.  Birds that live in places with no fresh water have to have a way to provide their bodies with water and eliminate the salt that all of the water they come in contact with has.   The Albatross, many gulls, and a variety of terns never have a fresh water pool they can go to in order to get a drink.  The way that they are designed to handle this problem is interesting and very complex.

These birds have salt glands located in depressions in the skull behind the eyes.  This gland consists of small tubes that carry salt solutions from the body into the nasal cavity.  These tubes are in close contact with blood vessels and carry sodium and chloride ions into the tubes from the blood.  This is done by using the energy part of their proteins called ATP to drive the salt into the tubes from the blood.

The result of removing the salt and chloride ions from the blood and excreting it from the bird's bodies is that the fresh water content of the blood is maintained.  This is an active transport system and is quite different from the reverse osmosis that humans have developed to desalinate sea water.  It is closer to the processes that take place in our kidneys where nephrons do a similar thing in purifying our blood.

Chemistry is one of those exciting areas of study, where over and over we see incredibly complex and ingenious systems designed to allow animals to survive in what seems to us to be hostile conditions.  Marine birds are a great demonstration of such a system.  world is full of situations where we "can know there is a God through the things He has made" (Romans 1:19-22).


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