What do toucan bills and elephant ears have in common? Both are used for thermoregulation. In the case of the toco toucan the bird has the largest beak to body size ratio of any extant bird*. The mis-proportioned bill is a key identifying characteristic of the family Ramphastidae; while the outrageous colors make this animal a much endeared representative of the neotropics. Often perceived as an adaptation for mate recognition and feeding, it appears that the toucan bill is a thermal radiator*. Like elephants that can dissipate excess heat with the flapping of ears, toucans rely on the large surface area of vessels within the bill to balance heat retention with its loss.
*Tattersall, G. J., D. V. Andrade, and A. S. Abe. "Heat Exchange from the Toucan Bill Reveals a Controllable Vascular Thermal Radiator." Science 325.5939 (2009): 468-70. Web.
©2000-2015 BTLeventhal.com / Bruce & Tamy Leventhal. All rights reserved. No image on this site may be used without permission.