Physics in the world of animals: the Toucan and beak


Even those people who are not versed in the species of birds, and did not know what the bird looks like, will recognize the representative of the family tukanovich. Toucans live in lowland and mountainous rainforests of North and South America, usually in the hollows of trees. In most birds of this family disproportionately large beak. It's usually very brightly colored.

Beak tukanovich reaches approximately half the body length of the bird. Looks like this "tool" very heavy and uncomfortable, but in fact it is not. Inside a huge beak of a lot of air cavities, so it is lightweight. But the beak of the Toucan is not only lightweight but also very strong. This a miracle of nature, one of the best engineering projects" in the animal world.

Beak looks even a little threatening. But the bird itself is no threat to anyone is not (except for the beast who attacked the Chicks). Toucans herbivorous birds that feed on berries and fruit. Big beak Toucan need in order to pluck the fruit from thin branches that the weight of the birds did not survive. Due to the long beak of the Toucan can reach the fruit that hangs far out of reach for most other herbivorous birds. Toucans are also those that are moved by the berries — and here is the big and sharp beak has to be very helpful.

To make the fruits easier to hold and open at the end of the beak located notch. Helps in this "job" and a long and sticky tongue. Some specialists believe that a large and colorful beak of the Toucan helps him to find relatives, claiming its own presence.

When a person sees a Toucan, a common question about how this bird is sleeping. How can you sleep with this beak? The answer is simple. Rest the bird in a deep hole, put the beak on the back. He fits there perfectly. The tail develops on the chest, and a large Toucan turns into a medium size feathered ball.

The design of the beak

As mentioned above, the beak of a Toucan is not as hard as it might seem. The beak is very strong, but it is made of lightweight material with a large number of pneumatic cavities. Studying the beak of the Toucan are not only ornithologists, but also scientists from other disciplines, for example, materials scientists. Best of all, the bill is studied Marc Andre Meyers [Marc A. Meyers], a specialist in materials science from the University of California.

He found that the upper part of the beak consists of bone and membranes. Something similar could be created of foam, which can quickly freeze. This bone "foam" located between outer layers of keratin. This substance, for example, included in the composition of our nails. "Foamy" structure of the Toucan beak ensures its durability and lightness. The outer layer of bone tissue is a collection of a large number of layers of small hexagonal tiles. Tile width is about 50 µm and a thickness of about 1 micron. Bone material closed at the top the keratin tiles, bonded together.


The surface of the Toucan beak is covered with several layers of keratin plates

Specialist in materials science and engineering mark Meyers conducted a computer simulation, and found that the design of the Toucan beak is almost perfect. "It's as if a Toucan possessed a deep knowledge in the field of engineering," says Myers. "The big surprise is that two-layer structure of the bill creates a system of absorption of impact energy high efficiency". The structure of the beak is a bit like internal structure of human bones. But no bones for the "bone foam", which is in the bird's beak.


Recently it was also revealed that the beak of the Toucan helps the bird to regulate its body temperature. It operates on the principle of a car radiator. When it gets hot, the beak of a Toucan is heated very quickly taking on body heat. Excess thermal energy is then dissipated in the air.

The beak of toucans large number of blood vessels. Using a special mechanism, the bird can increase or restrict the flow of blood. As a result, in the heat of the bird's body cools, and when it gets cold — the body heat is preserved.

Having studied the structural features of the beak toucans, experts have been developing durable and lightweight materials with a structure similar to the structure of the beak of a Toucan. Such materials can be successfully applied in the industry. For example, to make efficient and reliable bumper for a car or a light and durable item for the plane.

The study of the peculiarities of the structure of the beak of toucans is still ongoing. And who knows, maybe scientists will be able to uncover more than one secret of this marvelous tool.



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