Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Evolutionary Oddity: Erectile Tissue Helps Flamingos Eat

Date:
October 30, 2006
Source:
Ohio University
Summary:
With their spindly legs, long necks and bright plumage, flamingos are a curiosity of nature. Now a new discovery by a team of Ohio University researchers reveals an anatomical oddity that helps flamingos eat: erectile tissue.

Holliday, C.M., Ridgely, R.C., Balanoff, A.M. and L.M. Witmer. 2006. Cephalic vascular anatomy in flamingos (Phoenicopterus ruber) based on novel vascular injection and computed tomographic imaging analyses. Anatomical Record 288A:1031-1041.

With their spindly legs, long necks and bright plumage, flamingos are a curiosity of nature. Now a new discovery by a team of Ohio University researchers reveals an anatomical oddity that helps flamingos eat: erectile tissue.

Related Articles


Flamingos are known for their peculiar feeding behavior. While standing in shallow water, they bend their necks, tilt their bills upside down in the water and swish their heads from side-to-side. Their large tongue acts like a piston, sucking water into the front of the bill and then pushing it out the sides. Fringed plates on the tongue trap algae and crustaceans in the circulating water.

“The flamingos’ feeding habits have captured people’s curiosity for ages, but that wasn’t the original focus of our research,” said Casey Holliday, who recently earned a doctorate in biological sciences from Ohio University and served as lead author on the study. “We were investigating the evolution of jaw muscles in lizards, birds and dinosaurs. By sheer luck we discovered something new about flamingos.”

To get a detailed look at the flamingo’s jaw muscle structure, the researchers injected a colored barium/latex mixture into the blood vessels of a bird that had died and was donated by the Brevard Zoo in Florida.

A 3-D view of the bird’s head was created using a new computed tomography (CT) scanning technique developed by the Ohio University team that highlights blood vessel anatomy. The researchers noticed large oval masses of erectile tissue located on the floor of the mouth on either side of the tongue.

“No one ever anticipated finding something like this, and now we’re scratching our heads trying to understand the role these tissues play,” said Lawrence Witmer, a professor of anatomy in Ohio University’s College of Osteopathic Medicine who directed the study.

The researchers know that when the erectile tissues fill with blood, they stiffen, strengthening and supporting the floor of the mouth. “We suspect this stabilizes the mouth and tongue and helps with the peculiar way that flamingos eat,” he said. “It’s an important new piece of the puzzle of flamingo feeding—frankly, a piece we hadn’t known was missing!”

The Anatomical Record published the research findings in October and featured the study on the cover. Witmer, Ryan Ridgely and Amy Balanoff were co-authors of the study, which was funded by the National Science Foundation and conducted with the assistance of the University of Texas’ High Resolution X-Ray CT Facility.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Ohio University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Ohio University. "Evolutionary Oddity: Erectile Tissue Helps Flamingos Eat." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 October 2006. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/10/061030120316.htm>.
Ohio University. (2006, October 30). Evolutionary Oddity: Erectile Tissue Helps Flamingos Eat. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 26, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/10/061030120316.htm
Ohio University. "Evolutionary Oddity: Erectile Tissue Helps Flamingos Eat." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/10/061030120316.htm (accessed March 26, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Jockey Motion Tracking Reveals Racing Prowess

Jockey Motion Tracking Reveals Racing Prowess

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Mar. 26, 2015) Using motion tracking technology, researchers from the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) are trying to establish an optimum horse riding style to train junior jockeys, as well as enhance safety, health and well-being of both racehorses and jockeys. Matthew Stock reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Botswana Talks to End Illegal Wildlife Trade

Botswana Talks to End Illegal Wildlife Trade

AFP (Mar. 25, 2015) Experts are gathering in Botswana to try to end the illegal wildlife trade that is decimating populations of elephants, rhinos and other threatened species. Duration: 01:05 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Elephants Help Keep 18-Wheeler From Toppling Over

Elephants Help Keep 18-Wheeler From Toppling Over

Newsy (Mar. 25, 2015) The Natchitoches Parish Sheriff&apos;s Office discovered two elephants keeping a tractor-trailer that had gotten stuck in some mud upright on a highway. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Baby 'pet' Orangutan Rescued from Chicken Cage Takes First Steps

Baby 'pet' Orangutan Rescued from Chicken Cage Takes First Steps

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Mar. 25, 2015) Buti, a baby orangutan who was left malnourished in a chicken cage before his rescue, takes his first steps after months of painful physical therapy. Mana Rabiee reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins