|Whitney Smith, the 53rd Wing honorary commander
US Air Force photo / Sara Vidoni
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If dogs were meant to fly, they would have bodies designed for it. Flying at altitudes so high that the lack of oxygen is a serious problem requires bodies specifically equipped for breathing thin air. This need is illustrated by an amazing German Shepherd named Antis that flew in combat missions during World War II at altitudes of up to 16,000 feet.1 How did this dog survive flying in oxygen-starved altitudes?To read the interesting story about Antis as well as information about bird design, click on "High-Altitude Flying Is for the Birds".
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What about high-flying birds that have no such oxygen mask? How can they survive elevations of 15,000 feet and sometimes higher without a supplemental source of oxygen? Many bird migrations occur at extremely high elevations: 21,000 feet for the mallard duck, 27,000 feet for swans, even 36,000 feet for vultures!