Periódicos Brasileiros em Medicina Veterinária e Zootecnia

p. 256-263

Evolution of bill size in relation to body size in toucans and hornbills (Aves: Piciformes and Bucerotiformes)

Hughes, Austin L

Evidence that the bill of the Toco Toucan, Ramphastos toco Statius Muller, 1776, has a specialized role in heat dissipation suggests a new function for the large and light-weight bill of the toucan family (Piciformes: Ramphastidae). A prediction of this hypothesis is that bill length in toucans will increase with body mass at a rate greater than the isometric expectation. This hypothesis was tested in a phylogenetic context with measurements of skeletal elements in adult males of 21 toucan species. In these species, 64.3% of variance in relative skeletal measurements was accounted for by the contrast between bill and body size. Maxilla length and depth increased with body mass at a greater than isometric rate relative to both body mass and other linear skeletal measures. By contrast, no such trend was seen in a parallel analysis of 24 hornbill species (Bucerotiformes), sometimes considered ecological equivalents of toucans. The unique relationship between bill size and body mass in toucans supports the hypothesis that the evolution of a heat dissipation function has been a persistent theme of bill evolution in toucans.(AU)

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