Beak design absorbs high-energy impacts: toco toucan
Toucan beaks are built lightweight and strong thanks to a rigid foamy inside and layers of fibrous keratin tile outside.
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"The toucan beak, which comprises one third of the length of the bird and yet only about 1/20th of its mass, has outstanding stiffness. The structure of a Toco toucan (Ramphastos toco) beak was found to be a sandwich composite with an exterior of keratin and a fibrous network of closed cells made of calcium-rich proteins. The keratin layer is comprised of superposed hexagonal scales (50 µm diameter and 1 µm thickness) glued together. Its tensile strength is about 50 MPa and Young’s modulus is 1.4 GPa. Micro and nanoindentation hardness measurements corroborate these values. The keratin shell exhibits a strain-rate sensitivity with a transition from slippage of the scales due to release of the organic glue, at a low strain rate (5 · 10-5/s) to fracture of the scales at a higher strain rate (1.5 · 10-3/s). The closed-cell foam is comprised of fibers having a Young’s modulus twice as high as the keratin shells due to their higher calcium content. The compressive response of the foam was modeled by the Gibson–Ashby constitutive equations for open and closed-cell foam. There is a synergistic effect between foam and shell evidenced by experiments and analysis establishing the separate responses of shell, foam, and foam + shell. The stability analysis developed by Karam and Gibson, assuming an idealized circular cross section, was applied to the beak. It shows that the foam stabilizes the deformation of the beak by providing an elastic foundation which increases its Brazier and buckling load under flexure loading." (Seki et al. 2005:5281)
Ramphastos toco Statius Muller, 1776
IUCN Red List Status: Least Concern
Habitat(s): Forest, Grassland
Natural History Information:
SOURCE AND ADDITIONAL INFORMATION FOR NATURAL HISTORY INFORMATION
Animal Diversity Web
Lorri R. Marek
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occupies the canopy layer of the tropical rainforest. It avoids dense rainforests,preferring more open habitats, such as woodlands, river forests, plantations, and palm grooves. It is commonly observed near human dwellings and it is abundant throughout its range.
is the largest member of its family, which comprises 37 species. It is 25 inches long. The appearance of is very colorful. Males and females are alike in color and there is no sexual dimorphism (Hanzak and Formanek, 1977). The most outstanding feature of this species of bird is its bill, which is enormous and brightly colored. The bill may be up to 71/2 inches long and is constructed of a honeycomb of bony material. The huge golden-yellow bill looks heavy, but it actually weighs little because it contains many air pockets. The tongue of is long, narrow, and singularly frayed on each side. This narrow tongue resembles a feather. Each eye is surrounded by an area of bare skin that is usually a brightly-colored orange. The plumage is black except for the white throat. The legs are strong and rather short with large scales. The claws are used for grasping branches. To enable it to grasp the branch, the toucan has two toes point forward and two backward. The tail tends to be long and nearly square. No geographic variation has been reported (Whitfield, 1998).
is a very noisy member of the jungle society. The bird lives in small communities equivalent to several families. It actively travels in small noisy flocks of half a dozen birds. For only short distances, flies gracefully. The bird beats its wings several times and glides. It is more agile in the trees, where it can hop from one branch to another. As with other brightly-colored forest birds, can hardly be seen, especially when it sits quietly, because its broken patterns harmonize with its surroundings. Its vibrant splashes of color are regarded as a flower or fruit to the eye that notices it. Although the bird's coloring has significant concealing value, often makes its presence known by its noisy chatter. It has a loud monotonous call that can be heard a half mile away in the jungle (Austin, 1983). This bird is a very playful animal and enjoys a variety of games. One of the favorites is a form of beak wrestling. During the nuptial display, both partners play a game which consists of tossing fruit to each other. After their ritual berry tossing, the birds mate and the female lays her eggs in a nest. Both parents actively take part in caring for the offspring (Skutch, 1996). Although the specific functions of the bill are poorly understood, it may play an important part in the courtship display. As a defensive weapon, the bill serves more as a frightening instrument than as a fighting tool. The bill provides little protection against predators. To escape predation, hides in a hollow tree. Another interesting behavior of is the way in which it sleeps. When the bird sleeps, it turns its head so that its long bill rests on its back and the tail is folded over its head. The bird becomes a ball of feathers. Five or six adults may sleep in a single hole, folding their tails over their backs to save space in crowded quarters (Austin, 1983).
Some organism data provided by: ITIS: The Integrated Taxonomic Information System
Organism/taxonomy data provided by:
Species 2000 & ITIS Catalogue of Life: 2008 Annual Checklist
Application Ideas: The structure of the toucan's beak could serve as the inspiration for automotive panels that could protect passengers in crashes and could also be used for ultralight aircraft components.
Industrial Sector(s) interested in this strategy: Automotive, aircraft
Marc A. Meyers
Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, University of California San Diego