Life as We Know It
Toucans, Orchids, Monkeys and more
- By Amanda Bensen, Abby Callard, T.A. Frail, Ashley Luthern and Sarah Zielinski
- Smithsonian magazine, October 2009
Charles Darwin theorized that the toucan's outsize beak is a display to attract mates; others note that the bill is used to pick fruit, rob eggs from nests or defend territory. Now scientists in Brazil and Canada report that the beak also cools the bird, like an elephant's ears. Using heat-sensitive cameras, the researchers monitored toco toucans in a lab as the room heated up. More blood flowed to their bills, warming them and dissipating heat.
Learn more about the toco toucan at the Encyclopedia of Life.
Read more about toucans at our Surprising Science blog.
"Fire as an Engineering Tool of Early Modern Humans," Kyle S. Brown et al., Science, August 14, 2009
"Fire and Stone," John Webb and Marian Domanski, Science, August 14, 2009
"Heat Exchange from the Toucan Bill Reveals a Controllable Vascular Thermal Radiator," Glenn J. Tattersall et al., Science, July 24, 2009
"Orchid Mimics Honey Bee Alarm Pheromone in Order to Attract Hornets for Pollination," Jennifer Brodmann et al., Current Biology, August 25, 2009
"A viscosity-enhanced mechanism for biogenic ocean mixing," Kakani Katija and John O. Dabiri, Nature, July 30, 2009
"Monkeys crying wolf? Tufted capuchin monkeys use anti-predator calls to usurp resources from conspecifics," Brandon C. Wheeler, Proceedings of the Royal Society B, June 3, 2009