Thursday, March 30, 2006

Ramphastos toco: Toucan

A scanning electron micrograph (inset) of the layered and staggered keratin (hard tissue like fingernails) tiles that make up the outer shell of a Toco toucan's beak.

The Toco toucan (Ramphastos toco) has a thick, roughly 20-cm-long (almost 8") beak that makes up a third of the bird's length. The Toco, which lives in the jungle canopies of South America, dines on tree fruits growing at the ends of branches. The birds perches on sturdier portions of a branch and relies on its beak's length to reach a meal. Once the toucan secures a piece of fruit in the tip of its beak, the bird tosses the food into the air and catches it closer to its throat.

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