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June 17, 2008

Mechanical Model of the Phalarope Beak

This mechanical model of the phalarope beak, showing the transport of a micro-liter droplet, helped researchers from MIT and colleagues from Ecole Polytechnique in Paris discover how the phalarope propels food upwards to its throat. The video was captured at 2000 frames per second but has been slowed down to 30 fps for this clip. Researchers had known that the phalarope draws food-rich water into its mouth in a gravity-defying manner, but until now, no one knew how. Using a mechanical model of the phalarope beak, the MIT and Ecole Polytechnique researchers recently discovered how the birds use surface interactions between their beaks and the water droplets to propel bits of food from beak tip to mouth. More visuals are available in a detailed press release about the discovery at:

Credit: Manu Prakash, MIT

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