With nasty big pointy teeth….

Modern birds do not have teeth. So much so simple, but that doesn’t mean that their beaks need be simply shears or forceps. The keratinious beak can be quite complex in shape and a good number of birds have serrations along the margins that increase their cutting abilities or grip. I’ve been bitten by a penguin and they have brutally serrated beaks that I can assure you slice open human hands most effectively. Pictured (courtesy of the Optimistic Painter himself) is an emu and while it is small, the lower right part of the jaw is well framed against the light background and the small serrations are clearly visible. Another little reminder that bones (sadly) can’t tell us everything about important details of the shape of he living animal and that the real appearance could in cases be quite different to what we expect.

6 Responses to “With nasty big pointy teeth….”


  1. 1 mattvr 24/02/2012 at 9:25 am

    I seriously have to get a real camera.

  2. 3 mattvr 24/02/2012 at 9:42 am

    My phone camera.
    I’ve used it for everything from textures and backgrounds for use in 3D animation to reference for painting. Unfortunately it gets a bit foggy in the heat and I wind up with photos like the above!

    • 4 David Hone 24/02/2012 at 9:48 am

      Wow. As a professional artist I rather assumed you were loaded down with camera equipment…. Err, yeah mate, time to get something a little better!🙂

      • 5 mattvr 24/02/2012 at 10:02 am

        My last decent camera had that film stuff in it!
        We have a little digital but I think it has a lower megapixel number than the phone!
        Trying to upgrade soon…

  3. 6 Jaime A. Headden 24/02/2012 at 12:02 pm

    The real interesting bit is that these ridges and serrations may occur where the underlying bone has a smooth tomus, but the opposite may be more complexe: whether the presence of “serrations” or comb-like projections (as in some hadrosauroids or pelagornithids/pseudodontornithids) is reflected in the rhamphotheca. If the one doesn’t correspond easily to the other, than the same is true inversely, or is it?\

    There’s that upcoming work by Ashley Morhardt and with Tobin Hieronymus et al. (2009) on ceratopsian facial anatomy allowing us to assess types of keratinous integument to bone structure, and comparing this directly to birds, along with Procrustes analysis for assessing fitness of shape to quantify disparity between rhamphotheca to underlying bone shapes.

    Of course, you’re looking at what might be microserrations: you’d have to have some really finite levels of shape analysis to compare in that emu above!

    Question, though: Does diet or behavior have any effect on wear or shape of the tomia of the beak in “serrated-margin” birds like the emu above?


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