Beak with air con

The inside of a bird's bill is filled with complex structures that help them meet the demands of hot climates.

E. Gulson-Castillo and E. Sibbald

This image created from a 3-D rendering of CT scans shows the nasal conchae inside the bill of a song sparrow.

Raymond Danner of the University of North Carolina Wilmington and his colleagues from Cornell University and the National Museum of Natural History used specimens preserved in ethanol and iodine to help soft tissues show up in scans – a relatively new technique that is letting researchers see the details of these soft, cartilaginous structures for the first time.

Conchae structures help the birds conserve water and regulate the temperature of inhaled air – especially in hot climates. The work was published in The Auk: Ornithological Advances.

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