Hot secret behind toucan's bill
Saturday, July 25 2009 @ 02:09 PM EDT
Contributed by: jkr
For centuries, scientists have puzzled over why the toucan's bill is so remarkably large - but now one team thinks it might have an answer.
Writing in the journal Science, the researchers say that the toucan uses its enormous beak to stay cool.
They used infrared cameras to show the bird dumping heat from its body into its bill, helping it to regulate its body temperature.
The toucan has the largest bill of any bird, relative to body size.
It makes up about one-third of its total body length.
The oversize appendage has received many different interpretations: Charles Darwin thought it might be used to attract mates, more recent ideas centre on fruit peeling, nest predation and visual warnings.
Toucan (Thiago Filadelpho)
Darwin thought that the beak could be a sexual ornament
To investigate further, a team of researchers from Brock University, Canada, and Universidade Estadual Paulista, Brazil, looked at the toco toucan (Ramphastos toco), which has the biggest bill of all the toucans.
Link to more: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/8165895.stm