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Ostrich necks act as a radiator to control their head temperature

Infrared images of ostrich necks show that they help the birds keep their heads cool in warm temperatures, lowering their heat stress and helping them reproduce more successfully

Life 25 March 2022

An ostrich (Struthio camelus) on a dune against a blue sky, Kalahari desert, South Africa ; Shutterstock ID 2129799884; purchase_order: -; job: -; client: -; other: -

An ostrich on a dune in the Kalahari desert

Shutterstock / EcoPrint

The ostrich’s long, flexible neck is an important means of staying cool in the heat and keeping warm in cooler weather, and it may have evolved partially as an adaptation to wildly variable climatic conditions.

Large animals are vulnerable to rapid temperature changes because their big bodies tend to hold on to heat. To investigate how they evolve thermal tolerance, Erik Svensson at Lund University, Sweden, and his colleagues looked to the world’s largest bird: the common ostrich (Struthio camelus …