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Thermal Imaging in Animal Physiology

Research Projects:

Bird Bills as Thermoregulatory Organs
The toco toucan (Ramphastos toco), the largest member of the toucan family, possesses the largest beak relative to body size of all birds. This exaggerated feature has received various interpretations, from serving as a sexual ornament to a refined adaptation for feeding. However, it also represents a significant surface area for heat exchange. We have demonstrated the remarkable capacity of the toco toucan to regulate heat distribution by modifying blood flow, using the bill as a transient thermal radiator.  Our results indicate that the toucan's bill is, relative to size, one of the largest thermal windows in the animal kingdom, rivalling elephant's ears in its potency to radiate body heat.

Tattersall, G. J., Andrade, D.V., and Abe, A.S. 2009. Heat Exchange from the Toucan Bill Reveals a Controllable Vascular Thermal Radiator. Science. 325: 468-470. Science Link PDF
Supporting Online Material, Movie S1, Movie S2

See also:

Scott, G.R., Cadena, V., Tattersall, G.J., and Milsom, W.K. . 2008. Body temperature depression and peripheral heat loss accompany the metabolic and ventilatory responses to hypoxia in low and high altitude birds. Journal of Experimental Biology, 211: 1326-1335. PDF

Symonds, M.R.E. and Tattersall, G. J. 2010. Geographic variation in bill size across bird species provides evidence for Allen's rule. American Naturalist. 176: 0-0. PDF
DOI: 10.1086/653666:


Brock University, Department of Biological Sciences
MacKenzie Chown F242, St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada, L2S 3A1
Tel: 905-688-5550 x4815
Email: Glenn Tattersall
Updated: September 18, 2010
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