Our paper “Energetic costs of bill heat exchange demonstrate contributions to thermoregulation at high temperatures in toco toucans (Ramphastos toco)” was just accepted for publication in the Journal of Experimental Biology.
This research project was from Jussara Chaves’ MSc thesis done at UNESP, Rio Claro, Brasil with Dr. Denis Andrade.
We showed that insulating the bill does not alter the width of the thermal neutral zone, suggesting the toco toucan has the capacity to compensate for the sudden reduction in heat transfer from the bill, but at higher temperatures the normal role of the bill in assisting with heat dissipation becomes more clear. Birds with insulated bills show significantly higher metabolic costs of heat dissipation. Since the primary avenues for dissipating heat at high ambient temperatures are evaporative cooling, the compensatory mechanisms involve an increased reliance on panting and gular fluttering, which are metabolically costly. These results indicate that while heat dissipation through the bill does not contribute significantly to widening of the TNZ, it may well be critically important in assisting body temperature regulation at higher temperatures extending above the upper limit of the TNZ.
For a great summary of the article by Kathryn Knight, please see the Inside JEB article “Toucans’ ostentatious beaks do not expand their thermoneutral zone“.
Access the paper from this Link (50 free clicks) or at the JEB website.
Chaves, J.N, Tattersall, GJ, and Andrade, DV. 2023. Energetic costs of bill heat exchange demonstrate contributions to thermoregulation at high temperatures in toco toucans (Ramphastos toco). Journal of Experimental Biology, 226, jeb245268. doi:10.1242/jeb.245268.
We wish to acknowledge Guilherme Gomes and Ariovaldo Pereira da Cruz-Neto for assistance with experiments and preliminary data analysis, and Luá T. Timpone and Adriana Fuga for assistance with animal care.