Bird beaks contain natural air-conditioning system

Scientists in the US discover complex air-conditioner in the beaks of songbirds

Scientists from the University of North Carolina Wilmington, Cornell University, and the National Museum of Natural History have discovered that the beak of some birds contain a complex natural air-conditioning system.

The researchers performed a CT scan on two Song Sparrow subspecies. The results from the birds’ beaks show an intricate structural system that acts as a natural air-conditioner, which ensures the birds can survive in hot climates. In scientific terms the structures are called nasal conchae.

The study was published in the The Auk: Ornithological Advances. Raymond Danner and his fellow researchers used a Song Sparrow whose natural habitat is a warm, dry landscape and a subspecies of Song Sparrow whose natural habitat is a moister and cooler landscape.

The nasal conchae of the first subspecies of Song Sparrow had a larger surface area and was situated further towards the front of the beak. Theoretically, this should create a better system for the cooling of air and for the retention of water from the atmosphere, according to Professor Danner.

The CT scan technology used in the study is a new development and is allowing scientists a closer look at these types of complex structures that until now have gone uninvestigated.

Discussing the discovery, Professor Danner said: “We had been studying the function of the bird bill as a heat radiator, with a focus on heat loss from the external surface and adaptation to local climates, when we began to wonder about the thermoregulatory processes that occur within the bill.”

He added: “The high resolution scans revealed many structures that we, as experienced ornithologists, had never seen or even imagined…”

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